An easy, impressive Sunday roast: Roast duck with apples, pears, and potatoes

A whole roasted duck is accompanied by apples, pears, and potato wedges roasted in duck fat.

Blue Kitchen
Roasted duck delivers a flavor that is richer, meatier and more intense than chicken or turkey.

This post was written by Marion Nowak, Terry Boyd's wife.

The cold weather is getting its claws into us. We are going out in down jackets, scarves and boots. In a fit of self-pity I even have taken out my coziest wool hat – the little wool cloche from Wildhagen that I usually reserve for the most desperate sub-zero days. The weather is having hostile spasms. The other day, going from the American Rhythm Center to Terry’s office on foot, I got caught in a sleet storm – mean tiny ice pellets flinging themselves into my face at 50 miles per hour.  Reader, it hurt.

It’s easy to make all of this out as the horriblest thing ever. Oh, the hideous descent into winter, oh the moping about the house because it’s so impossible out, oh pity oh lackaday. On the other hand, we’re getting to wear clothes we haven’t seen for months (and that are much more interesting than stupid sundresses). And the onset of cold also opens the way for wonderful food – for baking and roasting and the sort of lazy Sunday simple, slow dinners that are so very satisfying.

When you are suffering from early onset of winter complicated by la tristesse du dimanche soir, this recipe is extra good. In fact, nothing could be easier. It has five ingredients: duck, apples, pears, salt, and pepper. Six, if you add in a side of pan-roasted potatoes (yes, you do want to add them).

Now, roasting a chicken is certainly fine for a chilly Sunday afternoon. But roasting a duck is a whole other kind of wonderful. As we’ve said in an earlier post, the flavor is richer, meatier and more intense than chicken. Even duck breasts, while considered “white meat,” are darker than chicken or turkey. According to the USDA, it’s because they are birds of flight, and “more oxygen is needed by muscles doing work, and the oxygen is delivered to those muscles by the red cells in the blood.”

This being a duck, it will produce plenty of fat as it roasts. Don’t discard it! You will be using some of it to prepare the fruit and the potatoes. The rest you should save, in your fridge, as if it were gold. If you have duck fat, you can pan roast duck fat potatoes any time.

Roast Duck with Apples, Pears and Potatoes
Serves 4 to 6, with leftovers

1 6-pound duck
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 eating apples (see Kitchen Notes for apple and pear choices)
4 firm-ripe pears
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into long wedges (for the optional side)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Pat the duck dry. Discard any loose fat from the cavity. Prick the duck all over with the tip of a sharp little knife – go in at an acute angle; the idea is to pierce only the skin and not the meat beneath. Cap the feet with foil to avoid burning. Either tuck the wingtips into the wing or truss the wings with kitchen twine. Salt inside and out and place it breast down on a rack in a roasting pan. Put the pan in the oven.

3. Every now and then, when you happen to be passing by, open the oven and prick the duck some more. After an hour or so, take the pan out of the oven. Pour off the duck fat into a bowl. Don’t forget to prick the duck some more. Put the pan back in the oven.

4. Prepare the apples and pears. Cut a ring around each one so that it doesn’t explode in the oven. Set in a glass baking dish and brush with some of the reserved duck fat.

5. After another 45 minutes or so, take the roasting pan out of the oven. Put the baking dish with the apples and pears in the oven and shut the door.

6. Transfer duck to a holding plate. Take the rack out of the pan and pour off more duck fat. Poke the duck some more, turn it over breast side up and set it directly in the bottom of the pan.

7. Prepare the potatoes. Toss the potato wedges with a bit of the reserved duck fat – you just want to barely coat them. Season with salt and pepper and arrange them around the duck. Return the pan to the oven for another 30 minutes.

8. Check the potatoes – they should be just fork tender and starting to turn golden (see Kitchen Notes) and the duck should look beautifully golden, too. The apples and pears should be slightly browned and nicely tender. Take the duck out of the oven and let it rest a few minutes before you carve it. Turn off the oven, leaving the fruit in the oven until you are ready to start serving in a few minutes.

8. Arrange the duck on a platter, heap the potatoes in their own serving dish, then arrange the fruit on a serving plate and bring it all to the table. We also served this with a side of spinach sautéed with garlic; you could serve a big salad of bitter greens or a Brussels Sprouts Salad with Blue Cheese or just throw cardiovascular caution to the icy, howling winds and have Terry’s Mustard-Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.

Don’t throw out that duck carcass! We have plans for it soon. Put it in the freezer for now.

Kitchen Notes

Potatoes not browned yet? No worries. You can quickly brown them up in a nonstick sauté pan.

Pick your apples and pears. We used Gala apples. Russets, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Romes or Ida Reds would also be good. For the pears,  we used Seckels. Bosc are especially excellent for this kind of cooking.

Buying a duck. If you can find them fresh (or have a hunter friend), that’s great. So is frozen. The duck we chose came from Maple Leaf Farms and was found in the freezer case. To thaw a frozen duck, put it in a deep bowl or basin and trickle cold tap water over it for a few hours.

Hungry for more duck recipes? We cook duck a lot at Blue Kitchen. Here are a few favorites. Duck breasts are ridiculously easy to cook and never fail to impress. Try this Duck with Raspberries (Canard aux Framboises) when you feel like showing off. Duck Breasts with White Beans and Sausage delivers the comfort of cassoulet, only much quicker. Chinese Duck Pasta with Mushrooms uses duck legs, steamed with Asian seasonings, then roasted with a lacquer of honey, soy sauce and rice vinegar (yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds). And finally, there’s Braised/Roasted Duck Legs with Vegetables, a delicious mix of one-pan rustic and “I’m eating duck cooked with leeks, thyme and wine” elegant.

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