Grandma’s Roasted Duck

Grandma’s Roasted Duck
Бабусина запечена качка

From Ukraine with Love, June, 2022

If you ask me to name one family celebration that happened without my grandma’s roasted duck, I wouldn’t be able to recall it. This golden-brown bird with crispy skin and meat so tender and delicate it barely needs a knife is a true staple in our family. Whether it’s Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, or someone’s birthday, Granny’s duck with apples is always at the table. She cooks it in the oven in a massive, oval cast-iron pot with a heavy lid to ensure the juices and flavors circulate inside and penetrate the meat all the way through. To update this dish a bit, I added fresh sage and grated orange zest to bring a touch of aromatic complexity to the equation. Everything else is exactly as she does it.

Serves 4 to 6

1 whole Muscovy duck, 5 to 6 pounds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon mixed whole peppercorns
1 large orange, zest grated and then fruit cut into 6 wedges
1 small bunch fresh sage
2 large Granny Smith or other green apples, halved, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 large garlic cloves, smashed

Remove the neck and giblets from the duck cavity and save them for another use. Trim any excess fat from the cavity and tail area. Prick the duck skin all over with the tip of a sharp paring knife, being careful not to penetrate the meat. Pat the duck dry with paper towels.

In a heavy mortar, pound together the salt, peppercorns, orange zest, and sage until reduced to a paste. 

Rub the duck inside and out with the sage mixture, then stuff the orange wedges into the cavity. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. This will make the meat incredibly flavorful and the skin crisp. When ready to cook, remove the duck from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cover the bottom of a Dutch oven just large enough to hold the bird with the apple slices. Place the duck, breast side up, on the bed of apples, and cover the pot. 

Roast the duck for 1 hour and 40 minutes to 2 hours. Then uncover the pot, raise the oven temperature to 400°F, and continue to roast until the meat is very tender when pierced with a knife and the skin is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer.  

Transfer the duck to a carving board and rub the skin with the garlic. Tent the duck with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the apples warm in the pot. 

To serve, transfer the apples to a large platter. Fish the orange wedges out of the cavity and carve the bird, arrange the pieces on top of the apples, and serve immediately.