I will, as I always do, cook duck for Thanksgiving. The reason is the fat. A duck may look slimmer, but when cooked it rarely dries out, while a turkey that’s leaner often does. To choose a leaner meat may be a good idea in general, but I definitely prefer something tastier.
If you think the duck renders too much fat while baking, I suggest you spoon off the overflow for use in other treats. Potatoes fried in duck fat are heavenly and a duck-fat omelette is marvelous. When done right, duck fat even stores really well.
I also recommend using all the parts that come with it. The liver can be chopped up and sautéed with shallots, coriander, and cumin or seasoned with lime and cilantro for a perfect appetizer. The neck (and head and feet) and rest of the giblets make a great base for a stock (see below). This week’s recipe is my own creation, but I learned the baking method from both my mother and Elizabeth David (French Provincial Cooking, 1960). Happy Thanksgiving. — Johanna Kindvall
The day before roasting the duck, soak the figs and prunes with port overnight for at least 6 hours.
About 1 hour prior to roasting the duck, prepare the stock. Sauté the neck and giblets in a saucepan over medium-high heat until browned. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and pour in the white wine. Let it bubble and reduce for a couple minutes. Add sage, thyme, peppercorns, and salt. Cover with water and let simmer for about 1 hour. Season with more salt, if necessary. Keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 345 degrees.
Rinse the bird under running cold water. Rub the duck inside and out with lemon. Rub on some salt and pepper. Fill the duck with the fig and prune stuffing (reserve the remaining juice for the sauce or add it to the stock).
Put the duck on its side on a rack in a roasting pan and place in the oven. After 30 minutes, turn the bird on the other side and pour ½-1 cup of warm stock over the bird (keep some for later if making a sauce). Let it cook for another 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes and parsnips in a bowl and sprinkle on some thyme, salt, and pepper. Toss together well with your hands.
Remove the duck from the oven and turn the bird facing up. Place the potatoes and parsnips at the bottom of the pan. Stir around a little so the potatoes and parsnips get well coated with the duck fat and stock. If there is too much liquid or fat, just set it aside for later use. Put the bird back into the oven and cook for about 45-60 minutes. The breast should be gorgeously brown and the legs loose.
Remove from the oven and let rest for about 15-20 minutes before carving. (The potatoes and parsnips should be ready about the same time, but depending on the duck they may need less or longer to get ready. They should be soft inside and slightly crisp on top.) Serve immediately.