GRILLED (Whole) DUCK WITH GARLIC AND GINGER

AND TWO SAUCES

 
Steven Raichlen, the author of this recipe, makes an extravagant claim: There is no better way to cook duck than on a grill. This may sound iconoclastic coming from a cook who was trained in France, where duck is almost always roasted in the oven and where it is served fashionably rare, like steak, but the truth is that the ducks we get in North America taste best cooked long and slow to tenderize the meat and melt out the fat. And indirect grilling is about the best way to produce crackling crisp skin and well-done meat that is virtually fat free and fall-off-the-bone tender. Besides, it takes the mess of cooking a fatty bird like duck out of your kitchen, when you use the barbeque.This is Steve’s basic recipe for grilled duck, flavored by slivers of garlic and ginger which are inserted in slits in the flesh. The slits perform a second function, as well - the same as the pricks made all over the skin of a duck, using a fork: the slits allow the fat to drain off, crisping the skin in the process. If you like a smoke flavor with duck, throw a cupful of soaked (and squeezed out) wood chips on the coals - or into the smoker box of a gas grill. Fruit wood chips, like apple and cherry, go particularly well with duck. The duck is wonderful served with one of the sauces that follow. Then again, it’s pretty outrageous eaten just by itself.

SERVES 2 AS A MAIN COURSE
1 duck (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), thawed if frozen
2 cloves garlic – quartered lengthwise
2 slices (each 1/4-inch thick) fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch slivers
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Cinnamon Cherry Sauce or Orange Sauce (recipes follow)

Set up the grill for indirect grilling. For a gas grill, place a large drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill on high, then reduce the temperature to medium-low just when the duck is placed on the grill. For a charcoal grill, arrange charcoal pieces on either side of the drip pan, and allow them to burn until medium-hot: they’ll be covered mostly with great ash. [COOK’S NOTE: an excellent drip pan is a disposable aluminum pan easily found in the supermarket.]

Remove and discard the extra fat found just inside the body cavity of the duck. Remove the package of giblets and set aside for another use or discard. Rinse the duck inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Place the duck on its breast so the back side is up. Using the tip of a sharp, slender knife, make 1 slit in the fatty part of the duck under each wing and 1 slit in the underside of each thigh. Insert a sliver of garlic and a sliver of ginger into each slit, then place the remaining garlic and ginger in the body cavity. Prick the duck skin all over with a fork, being careful not to pierce the meat; then season the duck, inside and out, very generously with salt and pepper

Place the duck, breast side up, on a rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook the duck for 1 1/2 hours.[*see COOK’S NOTE, below, if using a charcoal grill.]

After 1 1/2 hours, tip the bird on its end over a bowl to drain off any juices that accumulate in the cavity; discard the juices. Continue cooking the duck until the skin is crispy and the meat is well done and tender, another 30 to 60 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner muscle of a thigh, not touching the bone, should register 170 degrees. [*COOK’S NOTE: If using a charcoal grill, add 10 to 12 fresh prelighted coals per side after each hour of cooking.]

Transfer the duck to a platter and allow it to stand for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with either of the suggested sauces on the side.

CINNAMON CHERRY SAUCE

Duckling a la Montmorency is a classic of French cuisine. The recipe author says that he has made the sauce with both sweet and tart cherry varieties and both fresh and canned fruit. Fresh are obviously better, but canned pitted cherries are certainly convenient and still quite tasty. (Be sure to use canned fruit, not the thick pie filling that also comes in cans.) Adjust the sugar accordingly. To reinforce the cinnamon flavor, place a cinnamon stick in the cavity of the duck before grilling.

Makes about 2 cups: enough for 2 ducks

12 ounces, fresh cherries
OR 1 can (15 ounces) cherries packed in light syrup – drained
1/4 cup, sugar (or as needed)
3 tablespoons, water
1/4 cup, red wine vinegar
1/2 cup, port wine
1 tablespoon, fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon, grated fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 cup, rich duck or chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
1 1/2 teaspoons, cornstarch or arrowroot
1 tablespoon, kirsch
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon, honey or sugar (optional)

If using fresh cherries, stem and rinse them under cold running water, then drain. Pit the cherries with a cherry pitter; you should have about 1 1/2 cups. If using canned cherries, drain, rinse, and drain again. Set the cherries aside.

Combine the sugar and water in a small, deep, heavy saucepan. Cover, set over high heat, and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover the pan, reduce the heat to medium high, and cook until the sugar caramelizes (turns a deep golden brown), gently swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. This should take 6 to 8 minutes, but watch carefully – it can burn quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinegar. (Stand back: The sauce will emit a Vesuvian hiss, releasing eye-stinging vinegar vapors.) Return the mixture to low heat and simmer, whisking until the caramel is completely dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir the port, lemon juice and lemon zest into the caramel mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add the stock and cinnamon and cook until reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the cherries, and simmer gently until the cherries are soft but not mushy, about 5 minutes for fresh cherries, 2 minutes for canned. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.

Dissolve the cornstarch in the kirsch and whisk this mixture into the sauce. Boil until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper; if additional sweetness is desired, whisk in the honey. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

ORANGE SAUCE

Duckling a l’orange was one of the first dishes that Steven Raichlen (the author of this recipe) learned to make at the La Varenne cooking school in Paris; it is a French classic. The sauce (like the one for Cherry Sauce, above) owes its unique sweet-sour-caramel flavor to the “bigarade,” a mixture of burnt sugar and vinegar. The traditional preparation calls for oranges, but Steven Raichlen also likes the exotic flavor you get if you substitute tangerines. To reinforce the orange flavor, place a few strips of the orange zest in the cavity of the duck before grilling.

Makes about 2 cups: enough for 2 ducks

2 large oranges – (preferably navel oranges)
1/4 cup, sugar
3 tablespoons, water
1/4 cup, red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups, rich duck or chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken
broth
1 tablespoon, orange marmalade
1 1/2 teaspoons, cornstarch
2 tablespoons, Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Finely grate enough zest off one of the oranges to make 1 teaspoon. Cut the remaining rind and all the white pith off this orange to expose the flesh. Working over a bowl to catch any juices, and using a sharp paring knife, make V-shaped cuts between the membranes to release neat segments. Set the segments aside, first removing any seeds with a fork. Juice the second orange: You should have about 2/3 cup juice in all.

Combine the sugar and water in a small, deep, heavy saucepan. Cover, set over high heat, and cook for 2 minutes. Uncover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook until the sugar caramelizes (turns a deep golden brown), gently swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. This should take 6 to 8 minutes, but watch carefully-it can burn quickly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinegar. (Stand back: The sauce will emit a Vesuvian hiss, releasing eye-stinging vinegar vapors.) Return the mixture to low heat and simmer gently, whisking steadily, until the caramel is completely dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir the orange juice and stock into the caramel mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, uncovered, to reduce by half: this will take 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the orange marmalade. Simmer until melted, about 1 minute. Dissolve the cornstarch in the Grand Marnier and whisk this mixture into the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Add the orange segments and remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Recipes adapted from The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen (Workman)