Saturday, June 11, 2011

Roasted Duck with Orange Balsamic Glaze

"Noelle, I've got a proposal.  I'll hunt the bird, you cook it in our kitchen?!" -Keith, best bud from Sacramento and hunter-gatherer.  How can you say no to that?  You don't.

Duck is one of those things I'll order in a restaurant but find intimidating to try on my own.  It's all what you grew up with.  Our Montanan relatives would send us coolers of venison, elk and jerky for Christmas when I was a kid.  I was always a fan of wild game.  But things with feathers carry a different aura about them.  It was time to face it! 

Warning: this post is not for the faint of heart or the animal activist.  We respect the bird... bullet to table.

(Adapted and inspired from Food Network Kitchen) I give you...

Roasted Duck with Orange Balsamic Glaze 

1 duck (we did two for four people, 2 lbs a piece)
Six 1 by 3-inch strips orange zest
1 small onion, quartered
 Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
3 tablespoons honey
½  teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
16-20 whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

We were dealing with wild game... freshly caught.  If you get your birds from the grocery store you may or may not need to follow the beginning steps.  I told Keith the bird needed to be minus it's feathers, feet and head- and well cleaned.  Some foodies may find that part exhilarating, not I.

There's no need for the neck skin.  Cut that off.

Keith man-handling the duck.
And then began the plucking.  My grandmother's voice kept repeating "you must get every last pin-feather." But they were EVERYWHERE!!  Keith said the younger duck had more feathers were square inch.  We did the best we could, then went to bed.  We let them dry out in the fridge overnight on a rack and plate.

Tedious process.
In the morning I got out my tweezers, like any respectable woman would and finished the job.  It was strangely satisfying.  This part is important though: because you want a crispy duck skin (yum!) and you don't want the feathers to get in the way of your perfect crunch.

Duck- death by gunshot, holding fast to his heart and other gibbets.

They came out quite nicely.  Keith wanted me to feature the bullet holes.  He is a proud hunter.

Here are the ingredients for stuffing the duck and for the glaze.  It was really quite simple.

Half or quarter your onion to fit inside the duck.

This is more for flavoring and aroma.  We didn't actually eat the onion.  Also, salt and pepper the cavity and outsides.

Also add a few strips of orange zest.

The Coburn's little dog Barker was just beside himself with all the meat preparation.  

Now for an IMPORTANT STEP.  The scoring.  You want to make slices in the fat layer so the skin crisps up.  I got better as I went.  Making as few slices into the actual meat as possible.

Then, in order to insure even cooking, you want to bind up the legs.  You want them to cook with the body.  But alas, no twine.  

We did find...

DENTAL FLOSS?!  (not mint) Why not, right?  It was an experiment.  

Bound up and ready to go.
Breast side up in the roasting pan.

We opened our wine up.  A Grenache from Fairplay, CA (wine peeps: a "must go" town in Amador County).  It paired BEAUTIFULLY with the Duck.  Warm, floral, cardamom and cedar.  We were VERY impressed with this bottle.

In a small sauce pan combine: molasses, honey, coriander, pepper, orange juice, balsamic vinegar and garlic.  The original recipe's reviews said to double the glaze recipe because you'll want more for dipping in bread (this is the recipe doubled), and I found it to need less molasses and more vinegar and garlic.  I also salted it to taste.

Cook all ingredients over medium heat until warmed.  Then set aside.  You won't put this on the bird until near the end.

A quick word on CORIANDER.  I simply LOVE this spice.  These little balls are so floral and fragrant when you crush them.  I want to wear this scent! 

If you've got a grinder then great, other wise the old school technique is always handy: dish cloth & wine bottle.

Let' 'er roll and crush em!

Can you smell them?  Ahhhhhhhh.  Also great on roasted carrots with a splash of orange juice.


Every 45-1hr, take the duck out and do some more "scoring" of the skin, we want to release the oils in the fat and crisp up, sealing in the juices of the meat like a hard shell.

After the duck has roasted 2 hours (if using larger ducks, then more time) at 300 degrees pour off any pan fat and turn oven up to 450 degrees (it's crispy time!)  Roast at that temperature for 30 min.

Let duck rest for 10 minutes and brush on glaze every few minutes while resting.

Carve duck (or just dig in) and serve it with any sauce that is left over.  We LOVED using it to dip our bread in along with some olive oil.

It was so fabulous.  Keith later found the bullets while carving.  It was an eventful meal.

Each bite was perfect.  Almost as perfect as our friends are for us.  Love you Keith, Ariana and baby Coburn on the way!


  1. make even duck...look amazing to cook. Keith...I love you man.

  2. Even the finest restaurant can get duck horribly wrong, but it is such a joy when done well. Looks like you've mastered it. Congratulations! (Ps. I love the full process photos.)