Updated: Apr 14
Thanksgiving will soon be here and this year is going to look a little different around the dinner table, especially for those of us who are used to large family gatherings at this time of year. A big turkey and enough food to feed at least a dozen people is the typical centerpiece of most families' Thanksgiving tables. However, this year with many people staying home, it doesn’t make too much sense to cook a massive turkey for 3 or 4 people. So, what can you do if you want that special Thanksgiving meal without cooking enough food to feed a small army? There are definitely several options available such as just buying a turkey breast or legs, but I’m going to encourage a slightly different option, which is actually what I normally do at our house on Thanksgiving… Cook something different! Now, I will preface this by saying I grew up in small town Nebraska, where we always had a big turkey for Thanksgiving (often, two turkeys!) and the whole family would come over, so I fully understand the traditional setting. However my wife, who is from Macau, didn’t grow up with this tradition and really doesn’t care for turkey. So, over the years when we didn’t go back to Nebraska for Thanksgiving and it was just us, I took it as an opportunity to cook something more to her liking. I still liked to stay true to some of the items that may have actually been served at that first Thanksgiving back in the 1600’s. My wife prefers darker meat birds, so we’ve cooked ducks, geese, pheasant and even a leg of venison one year! According to research, ducks, geese, and venison were likely served at that first Thanksgiving, while it is unclear if turkey was one of the courses. While some of these options may be new for some people to cook at home, this year is the perfect year to give them a try as they aren’t so massive, and they provide a lot more flavor than the typical turkey. Provided below is the simplest method I’ve ever used for roasting a duck. The same method applies to a goose; it's just bigger! I love roasting duck, because not only do you get a delicious bird out of it, but you also end up with a bunch of rendered fat that is amazing for pan frying potatoes or roasting vegetables. Don’t be scared! If ever there was a year to step away from tradition and play around in the kitchen a bit, this is the year! So, pour yourself a glass of wine and have some fun in the kitchen! And if it all sounds like too much, don’t forget that we are offering complete Thanksgiving meals, so just check out our website, place your order, and pour yourself a second glass…
Roast Duck Ingredients 1 Whole Duck, about 5 lbs Salt Pepper Roasting Pan with rack or Half sheet pan with a cooling rack Boiling Water Instructions
Rinse duck and dry thoroughly with paper towels
With a chef’s knife or kitchen scissors cut off the wing tips as they tend to burn. Tuck excess neck skin under the bird
With a fork or bamboo skewer, poke holes in the skin all over the bird. This will allow the fat to render out during roasting
In the sink or over a large pan, carefully pour boiling water over the skin. You will see the skin immediately tighten. This process will also help the skin to crisp.
Pour off any excess water and dry the duck thoroughly inside and out with paper towels.
Season the duck all over with the salt and pepper.
Place in roasting pan, breast side up, and allow to sit and air dry about 1 hour before placing in the oven.
Preheat oven to 400 F
After about an hour place the duck in the oven and roast approximately 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and using a large pair of tongs or 2 large spoons, flip the duck over so the breast is facing down and place back in the oven. This will help the fat render from both sides of the duck.
Roast another 25 minutes. Remove duck from the oven and flip again. At this point I start checking the duck’s temperature with a meat thermometer and cook until the internal temperature at the thigh is about 165F and the skin is golden brown.
Continue to cook, flipping every 25 minutes or so until the internal temperature reads 165 F and the skin is golden brown. About 1 ½ hours altogether depending on the size of the duck.
Allow to rest before carving and whatever you do, don’t throw away the rendered fat! It is like liquid gold and can be used as a cooking oil just like butter. Again, I’m begging you to not throw this away and if nothing else put it in a Tupperware container and drop it off at our kitchen so I can use it…
Note: If you like your breast meat medium rare, simply remove the duck from the oven once they register 120F on a thermometer. Carve the breasts off and return the duck to the oven to finish cooking the legs. Crisp the skin on the duck breasts in a frying pan before serving.