Christmas is not a holiday I get real excited about. I never put up Christmas lights and last year I didn’t even decorate my tree (I was going for a Scandinavian theme). This roasted duck is my best attempt to get in the holiday spirit. It all started with the idea of poaching pears in spicy mulled wine and then using that as a base to make a sweet glaze. That glaze is brushed over a mallard resting on top of a bed of red onions, all which caramelize while roasting in a fiery hot oven.
Some of my ideas can be a little questionable, but when I started to play around with the glaze I realized I had basically made candy out of the mulled wine. AND IT IS GOOD.
The recipe is a little long but don’t let that intimidate you, it is easy to make if you just follow the tips and guidelines described below.
Score: “To But Not Through”
The purpose of scoring the skin of a duck is to render or release the fat. The goal is to slice “to but not through” the skin and you definitely don’t want to cut the meat. This can be very hard to achieve especially if you have very little fat on the top of the breast or if your bird has any holes from being shot. Be careful in these areas and concentrate on the parts where there is a thicker layer of fat to release (around the back and sides of legs). The fat will drip down onto the red onions that are caramelizing below the duck.
You have the option to place a clove at the cross-hatch marks where you have scored. I wedge the cloves in between the skin to help give more flavor as the fat renders out.
Roasting the Duck
Roasting ducks can be tricky, especially if you are someone who really likes your breast meat medium rare to rare. This is because when roasting at such high temperatures, the legs of a large duck don’t have enough time to fully cook through. To cook more evenly you could roast your bird longer to a medium temperature, but I would suggest roasting it hot and fast to cook the breast to medium rare, then carving off the legs and searing in a cast iron to finish while the breast meat rests.
Have a meat thermometer to check the temperature, you want the breast to be at around 145 degrees for medium rare.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animal!
- 2 medium sized Ducks (Mallards, Pintails) or 4 small Ducks such as Teal; Plucked
- Oil or Ghee for cooking
- Salt + Pepper
- *Whole Cloves (Optional)
- 4 Bosc Pears
- 1 Red Onion, Sliced
- 1 Bottle of Red Wine
- 2 C. Apple Cider
- 1 Small Orange, Sliced
- 8 Cloves
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 Star Anise Pods
- 1 T. Allspice Berries
- 6 T. Honey
- This recipe is for a whole, plucked duck, see notes below for a variation with breast meat*. Make sure to let it come to room temperature before cooking and that it is patted very dry. Rub each duck with a teaspoon of ghee or oil and season with a mixture of salt and pepper under the skin on top of the meat.
- If your bird is especially fatty, you will want to score the skin. Using a sharp knife, gently slice long strips across the skin without cutting through it or piercing the meat. Turn it around and score in the opposite direction to create a cross-hatch pattern. If using whole cloves, place a clove into every other cross-hatch mark (wedged in-between the layers of skin). Set it aside to come to room temperature while you make the mulled wine. Preheat the oven to 475.
- In a medium sized pot (big enough to fit four pears) combine the wine, cider, oranges, and spices together. Turn the heat to medium high until it begins to simmer.
- While the wine is simmering, use a peeler and peel the skin off of the pears. Place the pears in the pot with the mulled wine. Adjust the heat to a lower setting and continue to gently simmer until the pears are tender when pricked with a fork (about 25 minutes).
- Remove the pears and set aside on a plate to keep warm.
- Strain the mulled wine and discard the spices and oranges. Reserve 1 C. of the mulled wine for making the glaze. You can drink the remaining wine, or freeze it for future use.
- Add the 1 C. of wine back to the pot. Turn the heat to high and add 6 T. of Honey. Whisk to dissolve and boil fiercely for 10 minutes then remove from heat. The glaze should be reduced to about half a cup and will thicken into a syrup consistency as it cools.
- Line the bottom of a small cast iron with a touch of oil. Spread the red onions slices across to act as a "roasting rack" for the duck. Place the duck on top and roast in the oven.
- A small duck such as teal will only need about 15 minutes to cook, and a larger duck could take up to 15-25. You want to cook until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 145 degrees for medium rare. *
- During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, brush the Mulled Wine Glaze over the duck and drizzle over the red onions.
- Allow the duck to rest 5-10 minutes. Serve with the caramelized red onions, poached pears and drizzle extra glaze over the top.
*If you are using breast meat, sear one side on a hot cast iron, flip and transfer to the oven to finish cooking. You can make the mulled wine poached pears and glaze as directed above and baste it on the breast meat during the last few minutes of cooking.