Note: This recipe from "Simply French," Patricia Wells' book with three-star French chef Joel Robuchon, is a good example of the attention to detail that makes a truly great cook. It's a small thing, but tilting the duck on the platter after the cooking really does result in a much moister breast. The citrus-flavored caramelized apples that accompany it are a perfect foil for the rich flesh.
1 (2 1/2- to 4-pound) duck, liver reserved, trimmings ( neck, heart, wing tips) chopped
Freshly ground white pepper
3 large cloves garlic
1 small carrot, cut into thick diagonal slices
1 small onion, cut into thick slices
1 sprig fresh thyme
Grated zest of 1 small orange
Grated zest of 1 small grapefruit
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon honey
3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, about
1/2 cup water, about
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
Caramelized Apple Slices
Season duck to taste, inside and out, with sea salt and white pepper. Place duck liver in cavity and truss.
Place duck on its side in large oven-proof skillet. Set in 425-degree oven with fullest part of duck (breast portion) toward back. Roast, uncovered, 10 minutes. Turn duck on other side and roast at 425 degrees 10 minutes more. Turn duck on its back and roast 10 minutes more.
Remove skillet from oven and surround duck with chopped duck trimmings and garlic, carrot, onion and thyme. Remove trussing string from bird and season legs to taste with salt. (At this point bird will hold shape on its own. Without string, legs will cook more evenly.)
Return skillet to oven and roast duck total of 13 to 15 minutes per pound. Spoon cooking juices over duck 3 or 4 times to keep bird moist.
Remove duck from oven and season generously to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer duck to platter, reserving skillet and contents. Place duck platter at angle against edge of baking dish, with head down and tail in air. (This allows juices to flow down through to breast meat.) Cover duck loosely with foil. Turn off oven and place duck in oven, with door ajar. Let stand at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. Duck will continue to cook as it stands.
Bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Place orange, grapefruit and lime zests in fine-mesh sieve. Submerge in boiling water 2 minutes to blanch. Rinse zest under cold running water, drain and set aside.
Place skillet with trimmings over high heat. Cook until trimmings are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and discard all liquid in pan (it will be mostly fat). Add honey, stir and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Deglaze with several tablespoons vinegar, and cook 1 minute. Add about 1/2 cup water (or enough to make rich sauce), and simmer 5 minutes more.
Strain sauce through fine-mesh sieve placed over clean skillet, pressing down on trimmings to extract as much juice and flavor as possible. Add any cooking juices that have drained from duck as it was standing. Bring sauce to boil over high heat. Taste and, if necessary, add 1 or 2 teaspoons more vinegar. Remove pan from heat and add chilled butter, few pieces at time, working on and off heat so that butter melts gently to thicken sauce. Stir in reserved zest.
Carve duck and arrange meat in center of platter, surrounded by Caramelized Apple Slices. Spoon about half sauce over duck. Pour reserved sauce into warmed sauce boat. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
Note: Cooking time for duck will vary according to size of duck and flavor preference. Select shorter roasting time per pound for large duck, longer time for smaller duck. Total roasting time for 2 1/2-pound duck, for example, would be about 37 minutes, for 5-pound duck, 1 hour and 5 minutes.
Each serving contains about:
1,145 calories; 334 mg sodium; 216 mg cholesterol; 104 grams fat; 31 grams carbohydrates; 26 grams protein; 1.03 grams fiber.
Caramelized Apple Slices
1/4 cup clarified butter
4 cooking apples, cored, peeled and cut into 6 even slices
Heat clarified butter until very hot in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples in single layer and cook until golden brown on 1 side, then turn and cook other side. Cook until tender, when apples offer no resistance when pierced with tip of 2-pronged fork, 5 to 10 minutes.
Drain, arrange around edge of oven-proof platter, cover with foil and keep warm.