If poultry's not a problem for you, this dish is a satisfying, sophisticated main course for two to four people. The method, mostly from Alton Brown's Good Eats, is a simple two-step cooking process with an easy pan sauce. A lovely addition to a holiday table for a small group, or a great weekend dinner for family, free from "big eight" allergens if you use the dairy-free alternative for the sauce.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
- 1 duck, quartered (see note on cutting up duck below)
- salt and pepper
- 1 c red wine, fruit wine (blueberry or cherry), or chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 4 small sprigs fresh sage, bruised and minced, or 1 Tbsp. dried
- 1 Tbsp. butter, crème fraîche, or dairy-free margarine
- Prepare duck for steaming by scoring the skin: use a sharp knife to cut two- to three-inch scores in the skin in a crosshatch pattern, being careful not to cut all the way to the meat. This will help release fat from the skin as the duck steams.
- Heat about three inches of water in a large stockpot over high heat. Arrange the duck in a metal steamer basket or a metal colander suspended on the top of the stockpot. Steam duck for 30 minutes. If you have a cast-iron skillet, preheat oven to 450 F with the skillet inside for about ten minutes before duck is finished steaming.
- Carefully pat duck pieces dry and season with salt and pepper. If you have a cast-iron skillet, arrange them in the preheated skillet and cook in the oven for two to three minutes per side, or until duck is golden-brown and a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast or thigh reads 165 F. If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, heat a stainless-steel skillet (or other pan without a nonstick coating) for about five minutes over medium-high heat and sear duck until golden-brown and 165 F in the thickest part of the duck.
- Place duck on a serving platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Deglaze pan: over medium heat, add the wine or chicken stock to the hot pan and scrape the cooked-on bits of duck from the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Cook until sauce is thickened, then add sage. Turn off heat and stir in butter, crème fraîche, or margarine. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Cutting up duck: Nervous about cutting up the duck? Don't be. Cutting up a duck is no more difficult than cutting up a chicken. I recommend freezing the backbone and wings for poultry stock; trust me, it will be the best soup you've ever had!
Duck fat: Don't discard the steaming water when you're finished. Let the stockpot cool for an hour or so, then put the pot in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the fat will have risen to the top of the pan. Duck fat is a traditional cooking ingredient in French cooking and a great substitute for bacon if you're sensitive to pork (or if you avoid pork for religious or other reasons). It keeps well in the freezer.