Photo: Gentyl + Hyers
Roasted duck may not be part of the traditional holiday spread, but it should be. Choose duck for your table, and you’re in for a steak-like treat. Roasted, the thick fat underneath the skin renders, basting the meat and crackling the skin.
You’ll want to rub the bird with salt and pepper and let it sit in your refrigerator for a day or two before you roast it — this extra step is well worth the advance planning, as it results in deeply flavorful meat and ultra-crisp skin.
Serves 2 to 4
1 medium (5 to 6 pound) whole duck; neck, gizzard, and heart reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 bay leaves
2 ribs of celery, cut in thirds
1/2 pound seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 pound seedless red grapes, halved
1 pound fresh or jarred chestnuts, lightly roasted, shelled, skinned, and coarsely chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 cup Madeira wine, divided
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
With a knife, prick duck skin all over except legs. Without cutting into flesh, score breast skin in crosshatches. Season duck liberally, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Place on a rack set in a roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 1 to 2 days.
Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add neck, gizzard, and heart; simmer 30 minutes. Strain and set aside. If you like, reserve solids for sauce; shred neck meat and finely chop heart and gizzard.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Add shallots; cook until soft, 10 minutes. Increase heat to high, add 1/2 cup Madeira, and cook until reduced by a third. Add reserved stock and, if using, reserved giblets; cook until reduced by a third. Add honey and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in cornstarch mixture; simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Set sauce aside.
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Let duck sit at room temperature 1 hour. Stuff with bay leaves and celery; place breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan filled with 1/4-inch of water. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees; roast 40 minutes. Turn breast side down; roast 40 minutes longer. Return to breast side up; roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into breast reads 145 degrees, 15 to 30 minutes longer.
Transfer rack to a cutting board and tent duck with foil. Increase oven to 450 degrees F. Pour drippings from pan into a heatproof measuring cup. Allow fat to rise and skim it off, reserving drippings for future use. Add 1 tablespoon fat to roasting pan, reserving remainder. Heat pan over medium-high heat; add green and red grapes and cook, swirling, until slightly soft, 5–7 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup Madeira and bring to a boil, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 3 minutes. Add reserved sauce and simmer 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, transfer to a gravy boat, and keep warm.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat reserved duck fat (about 1 cup) over high heat. Fry chestnuts in three batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes each. With a slotted spoon, remove chestnuts and drain on paper towels. Season with salt.
Place rack back in roasting pan. Roast duck until skin is crisp, 10–15 minutes. Carve immediately and serve with the sauce and chestnuts on the side.