Slow-Roasted Duck with Glazed Turnips

I was driving past a farm stand that I don’t usually frequent, and I could see the beautiful plump turnips and deep green heads of savoy cabbage all the way from the road.

When I pulled in, I noticed that they sold freshly killed local ducks.  Here was the perfect weekend dinner.

Duck is always a time-consuming preparation–in one way or another. Like everyone else who loves duck, I’m always on the lookout for recipes that promise a crispy skin. I’ve slow-cooked duck in the past by roasting it covered for a few hours, then uncovered for an hour.  It produced meat that was falling off the bone, but not crispy skin.

I remembered hearing about a slow-roast duck recipe from my friend Kathleen, whose cooking sensibilities I trust implicitly.  She was referring to a recipe she had seen in Saveur magazine, and was kind enough to forward me the link, which I’ll share with you here.

This is my adaptation of the recipe in the article.   I followed the technique exactly but I made my own substitutions and additions.  I substituted shallot and bay leaf for garlic and thyme (not that there’s anything wrong with garlic and thyme), but I love the perfume of bay leaves with poultry and I prefer shallots to garlic in many preparations (more delicate and sweeter).

The addition of par-boiled turnips to the roasting pan under the duck for the last hour of cooking was purely mine–and delicious!  I coated the turnips with a drizzle of agave, salt and pepper, and they caramelized in the remaining duck fat for the last hour of roasting–sweet, earthy and tender.

The beauty of duck is that it renders a good deal of wonderfully flavorful fat, in which to cook a variety of things.  Today, after I blanched my savoy cabbage, I sauteed it in duck fat.  There aren’t many things I love as much as extra-virgin olive oil, but duck fat comes in a close second!

Slow-Roasted Duck with Glazed Turnips

serves 2

1 duckling (‘Pekin” variety)

2 tsps salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 medium shallot, finely diced

1 large turnip (about 6″ in diameter) or 4 – 6  small ones

2 tsps agave nectar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

With a paring knife, make little slits all over the surface of the duck, being careful not to go into the flesh–simply score the layer of skin on the outside.

Sprinkle a half-teaspoon of salt and the black pepper inside the cavity. Add the bay leaves and chopped shallot to the cavity.

Place on rack in roasting pan and begin roasting breast side up for 1 hour.  Drain fat and make additional slits in the skin, then turn the duck over breast side down.  Continue roasting for an additional 3 hours, lightly scoring the skin and turning the duck over every hour. After scoring and turning duck, drain any accumulated fat from the pan and set aside.

While the duck is roasting, peel turnips and cut into 1″ cubes.  Drop into boiling salted water and cook until tender–about 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove, drain, and set aside.

After roasting the duck for 4 hours, increase oven temp to 350 degrees.  Salt and pepper the outside of the duck liberally.  Leave the last round of accumulated fat in the roasting pan and add turnips.

Drizzle with agave, salt and pepper and stir to coat the turnips with the fat and agave. Roast the duck at 350 for 1 hour, at which time the turnips will be nicely glazed as well.

After all those hours of roasting, the aromas in your house will be intoxicating and you’ll be counting the minutes!

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