Friday, February 1, 2019

Love a Duck

I love duck. I don’t eat it as often as I’d like because the frozen kind at the supermarket is ridiculously expensive, no matter which end of the duck you choose, and they don’t always have it anyway. Very rarely do you see a whole (frozen) duck hiding in the freezer.

But I was in the mood for duck, so I bought a pair of frozen hindquarters. Then I went trolling thought the Mystery Lovers Kitchen archives for a recipe. I was disappointed to find I’d submitted only three, the earliest in 2012. Krista contributed a couple as well.

I turned to my ever-growing Irish cookbook collection and was disappointed again: there are very few duck recipes in any of them. (Hey, I know there are ducks in Ireland—my neighbor has a dozen or so, not that she eats them. I keep hoping she'll share some eggs, but mostly she's been letting them hatch. Lots of ducks!) What’s more, a surprising number of published duck recipes involve apples. My first MLK duck recipe included apples, but my mind was in the Orchard Mysteries, and the County Cork Mysteries hadn’t appeared yet.

I didn’t want another recipe with apples, although there are a lot of them. Much as I love apples, I think they’re kind of sweet for cooking a duck. So I kept hunting.

It’s amazing how many different ingredients people want to add to a cooked duck. Most of them I ignore, because I like the flavor of duck, and any additions should complement it, not drown it. So I decided to get creative.

One note: if you’ve cooked duck you know it has a lot of fat, and you’d rather get rid of it early. My original recipe, and others that followed, suggest cooking the duck (whole or in pieces) for a while before making a sauce for it, which makes perfect sense. You may be surprised by how much fat runs off. Save it! Potatoes cooked with duck fat are a treat.

That first fat removal phase is easy.

De-fatting your duck:

With a sharp knife, score the skin of whatever duck pieces you’re using (don’t cut into the flesh, just the skin). Season with salt and pepper

In a skillet, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat, place the duck pieces (skin side down) into the oil and let them sear for 4-5 minutes (don’t bother moving them around—you only need to sear the skin side).

Put a rack in a roasting pan (you can line the pan with foil first if you don’t like to wash greasy dishes). Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. and roast your duck pieces for about 45 minutes (the duck juices should run clear by then).

While your duck is defatting, make your sauce. And this is the fun part! Among the recipes I found included: apples, rosemary, green peppercorns, cider, honey, vinegar, garlic, cinnamon, brown sugar, whole fresh ginger, cardamom, chili flakes, mustard powder, a few items I’d never heard of, and (drumroll) Irish whiskey. Please do not attempt to include all of these in the same sauce!

Sauce for the Duck

(Remember, your duck pieces are cooking quietly and happily in the oven, so they will be fully cooked by the time your sauce is ready)

Here’s what I decided to use:
Yes, there is an Irish whiskey named
Writers Tears
(no, the cat is not part of the recipe,
but he likes to help)

1 small onion or two small shallots, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
I cup sweet cider (no artificial sweeteners, please!)
1 Tblsp cider vinegar
1 inch fresh ginger root, sliced thinly
1 tsp honey (if you really want something sweet)
1/2 cup Irish whiskey

Put all the ingredients except the whiskey into a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. It’s not finicky about how long you cook it, as long as it’s not too hot. 15-20 minutes of simmering should do.

Remove it from the heat and strain it. Return it to its pot over low heat and add the whiskey. Cook for a few more minutes, then remove it from the heat, cover it, and set it aside.

The duck should be cooked by now, so pour off the fat (save it for your potatoes!), brush the duck pieces with the sauce/glaze, and return to the oven for another five minutes. Repeat this two more times.

Remove your duck pieces from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest. Serve with any remaining glaze. You can add a green vegetable for color.

Feel free to add any other spices you like while the glaze is cooking--it's hard to go wrong. Just remember to strain out the bits and pieces. Plus the duck is already salted, so don’t add more salt without tasting the glaze first.

The recipe is easy to make (as long as you can find duck!), and the flavor of the glaze isn't overwhelming. You can make it as sweet or spicy as you want.

The Lost Traveller, County Cork Mystery #7
 released in January. 


  1. I don’t have any problem finding frozen duck here but I haven’t made one in several years. It’s a combination of the fatness and the price. Even though I like it I try to mostly cook lighter healthier meals these days.

  2. I haven't had duck in "donkeys years".
    This inspires me.
    Yes, duck fat is a treat!

  3. I adore duck but never learned how to cook it properly. Part of the problem was that duck is so expensive I feared making lots of costly mistake meals. Thanks for walking us through and giving us an out of the ordinary sauce.