For whole ducks on a roasting rack, line the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil. Do not put foil over the roasting rack as it will fill with duck fat. Set the upper rack so that the duck will be below the upper element by about 1 to 2 inches. Preheat oven to 350 and sample the Pinot Noir to ensure proper temperature.
Note: this process will produce some smoke from the oven. We usually have a few windows open in the kitchen to keep us vented and eat in the dining room. Remember, you cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
Culinary Selections from the Kitchen at Amalie Robert Estate
Roasted Whole Duck and Pinot Noir
With the duck on its back, on a solid surface such as a counter top covered with wax paper, score each side of the breast. Begin at the center of the breast bone and score diagonally upward toward the wing. Repeat with a parallel cut every 2 inches or so. Perform the same procedure on the other half of the breast. Be careful to not cut the meat under the skin. Remove the wing tips.
The thighs are the fattiest portion of the duck and I also score those. Turn the duck on its side and score vertically through the fatty portion of the thigh. Again, do not cut so deeply that you cut into the meat. Repeat on the other side.
Finally, cut the skin and tendons just above the leg knuckle in a circular fashion. This will allow the skin and meat to rise up the leg bone and remain moist.
Season the scored breast with Hungarian Paprika (HOT) and Thyme. You can also spritz with olive oil or sesame oil. Black sesame seeds are also an interesting addition.
Roasting with a convection oven:
Place the duck “breast side” up on a roasting rack and put on the upper most rack in the preheated oven. Set the oven to Convection BROIL and let this cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on things here as you will have duck fat and high heat in close proximity. The objective here is to render the fat from the duck. I usually end up with a deep golden brown hue on the breast, but if you feel it is too much, take it out sooner. Verify the remaining Pinot Noir bouquet is commensurate with the Duck. Secure a second bottle if necessary.
Remove the duck and place it on a heat resistant surface, hot pad or cook top. BE CAREFUL as the roasting pan will now have enough hot oil in it to give you a first hand impression of entering a medieval castle uninvited.
Set the oven to Convection Roast at 350 and move the rack to the center of the oven. Turn the duck over so that the breast is now facing down and return to the oven on the centrally located rack. Toast your accomplishment with a sip of Pinot Noir, even if you must open that second bottle to do so.
Roast for about 45 minutes. The leg joint should move fairly freely when done. Remember that the breast is at its best medium to medium rare.
For the last 5 minutes of roasting, turn the duck once more so that the breast is facing upward. This will allow the fat to drain from the scored skin. Prepare your carvery area with the following tools: A large cutting board with a recessed fat drain, poultry shears (aka duck pliers), a very sharp boning knife and a hand towel. This will be your last chance for a sip of Pinot Noir for a little while, so make the most of it.
Remove the duck from the oven and place on the cutting board. Let stand, or sit, for about 5 minutes to allow the juices to cool. Begin by cutting the duck in half lengthwise. Use the duck pliers to cut from the bottom of the breast up through the wishbone.
Once the breast is cleaved, cut the breast portions off the backbone. Begin at the top of the back and cut down either/both sides of the back. This will result in two separate breast portions, and a very odd looking pair of thighs attached to a backbone. Remove the thighs from the backbone.
This is a very rich meat, so we enjoy a slightly bitter vegetable such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Corn will pair with the sweetness of the meat. Of course, wild mushrooms are required. The cheese course varies widely, however I recommend Fourme d’Ambert with whatever Pinot Noir is left after the meal.