My teen age son wants to cook a duck for Christmas dinner. He has some basic cooking experience, and the motivation, so I am going to let him run with it. Any cooking directions would be very helpful! I also would appreciate answers to such things as - What is the best source for duck? Should you brine it? Best side dishes? Etc.
That's great that your son is so motivated to cook. I tried roasting a whole duck at home once, and although it was okay, I have yet to make it again. Main reason is that the skin just can't get as crispy as the kind from the Chinese deli, and the cooked bird seemed too fatty. I did the whole rendering of fat, but it didn't seem to work that well. I did buy it frozen from a market in the midwest, so I'm not sure if that had any bearing. This is not to say that you and your son wouldn't be more successful...
In terms of side dishes, I served wild rice "stuffing" w/ dried cherries, Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and baby onions. Think I cooked it outside of the duck, but I'm sure it would be super tasty if it was stuffed into the cavity (as long as it didn't compromise food safety). Also made a sweet potato puree and stir-fried baby bok choy w/ garlic.
I've given up on turkey for the holidays and I've gone ducky all the way--and I'm loving it. Here's the deal.
1. Do not brine. No need. Duck is fatty and its meat is dark. Properly cooked this means flavor, juicyness, and crispiness in the skin.
2. You will need to render out most of the fat.
3. The breast is like a steak, best left medium rare; the legs should be cooked till tender, or falling apart.
4. Forget the wings. Nothing there to speak of, unless you like sucking on such things. (And I know a few people do.)
Taken all together this means that roasting a whole duck is really NOT the best way to cook duck. People go throw hoops to keep their turkey breast juicy while making sure the legs are done. Well, ain't no way you're gonna keep the breast medium rare roasting.
So cut the duck up into 4 pieces: 2 breasts and 2 legs. Braise the legs and pan fry the breast. While you're at it, use the carcass to make stock. And don't forget to make a sweet sauce for the duck. Plenty of recipe abound.
But here's a NYTimes link that has it all. Just don't bother with the sauce in that recipe. It's too involved. Look for a different sauce in epicurious.
I did my first duck for Thanksgiving, and it came out great. I followed a recipe from Cooks Illustrated "Best Recipe."
1. trim loose skin
2. Steam it breast side up in a steamer rack for 45 minutes--this renders a great deal of the fat. Don't worry about pricking the skin.
3. Separate into pieces, salt and pepper, and roast at 375, skin side down for the breast. After 25 minutes take out the breast pieces, turn over the others, and go another 15 minutes. Coat each piece with glaze, and go another 5 min. Throughout roasting suck off the rendered fat with a bulb syringe. Although the separated pieces do not make for as impressive a presentation as a whole duck, it solves the problem whereby the legs have to cook longer than the breast should be cooked.
4. The glaze I used was one cup orange juice, two tablespoons lime juice, one tablespoon honey, reduced to 1/4 cup.
I like my roast duck, well done. I use a Komado, but a weber kettle would work too.
I get my ducks from my local butcher, but the chains (Safeway for example) sell frozen ducks. Maple Leaf is a brand I remember, the butcher gets his ducks from a "duck farm" about 100 miles north of us.
I cut off some of the obvious extra fat, prick the skin with a fork all over the place. Rub with soy sauce or Kitchen Banquet (for color), then season with Lawry's Seasoned Salt. Place on a rack. You could place some fruit/aromatics inside the duck. I will occasionally put in part of an apple and part of an onion, sometimes green onions, usually depends on what I have around. I have also put citrus inside: half an orange or half a lemon.
I use an inexpensive roasting pan; the inexpensive lasagna sized pan, costs under ~$10. Put an inch or so of liquid in the pan, I have used wine, beer, water, and combos of wine/beer/water: I haven't noticed a difference. Put the rack in the pan, put in the Weber/Komado and cover. Takes about an hour, maybe 75 minutes, I want the legs to almost fall off. The water/liquid will evaporate, replaced by duck fat.
The skin will be crispy, the duck will be rendered out, the flesh will be well done.
I figure 1 duck per two people.
For sides, I like baked sweet potatoes, eaten like a baked potato: butter, sour cream.
I wouldn't brine a duck. To me, brining is the same as buying salt water injected food.