Duck has never flown in America. Not in the kitchen anyway.
Yet in many parts of the world, Asia especially, it is the poultry of choice. A bickering gaggle of ducks being herded between rice paddies in rural Thailand or Bali is a common sight guaranteed to put the brakes on any tour bus.
In the US, introduction to duck has all too often been by way of mediocre "French" restaurants.
Billed as Canard l'Orange, it usually arrives at the table after the over-salted French Onion Soup and before the broken Crme Brle. Too often it has spent more time under a heat lamp than it ever did paddling around a pond. Drenched in a cloying cornstarch-based orange sauce, with shriveled skin, and in puddle of grease is the duck's final indignity.
I recently did an informal poll among friends and co-workers on their thoughts about roast duck.
Those who did enjoy it didn't cook it. "I like to order it when I'm in France, or in a really good restaurant, but I never even think of having it at home," said one.
"I wouldn't know where to buy a duck," responded another. (Check the freezer in your supermarket.)
And the main reason, "Too greasy!"
Well, that's legit. Duck can be greasy. The layer of fat that keeps duck bobbing like a cork in the water, can sink it in the human palate. This doesn't have to be. Properly prepared, and served immediately from the oven, duck is moist, succulent, and, when roasted, wrapped in crisp, flavorful skin.
Duck takes a little know-how, you can't just wing it. But it's no more difficult to prepare than any other poultry. Give it a try. A quarter of the world's population can't be that wrong.
*Duck (or duckling, as it is usually sold as), like goose, quail, and squab, is all dark meat.
*When possible, buy fresh, rather than frozen, duck. If frozen, let it defrost in its plastic wrapper for two days in the refrigerator.
*When roasting duck in the conventional manner, prick the skin several times along the bottom sides of the breast, and under the thighs; remove neck flap and any excess fat in the body cavity.
*Duck is difficult to carve. Instead, cut it with poultry shears, or chop it with a large knife or cleaver.
*One five-pound duck serves two linebackers or four members of your grandmother's bridge club.
*As with any poultry, save the bones, neck, and giblets for making soup. Fry the liver, or collect and freeze it for making pte. Do not use liver in stock as it imparts a bitterness.
*There is no need to baste duck when roasting. Because of the high fat content, it's self-basting.
*Duck is best roasted without being stuffed. Instead, place a cut- up onion, orange, lemon, or herbs in the cavity for added flavor.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society