Duck-loving company was coming Wednesday night and I found a six pound Long Island style duck, so I determined it would be fun to try to approximate the best duck I've ever had besides my friend Annabelle's chinese smoked duck. In fact, Annabelle was going to be my dinner guest and sous chef. This was the duck in brown sauce with fresh blueberries remembered so fondly from a left bank Paris Bistro called Chez Gregoire, and I wanted to duplicate it down to the thin, crispy potatoes.
We nailed it.
Success was in simplicity. The brown sauce needed to simple roast duck flavor, but intense and concentrated. Ditto the duck, which we slow roasted for three hours stuffed with salt, pepper and a handful of herbs (lots of parsley and several sprigs each fresh thyme and rosemary), after baking it for an initial two hours at 200 F to dry out the skin (it was wonderfully crisp).
For the potatoes, I remember seeing in the bistro's kitchen (we were seated at a higher elevation, so we could look down and watch all goings-on) in piles of pre-cooked potatoes of which a handful were thrown into a deep fryer to crispen up as orders came in. The potatoes were especially magical--some pieces were crispy and browned and some were not, but all were a bit chewy. We got there without a deep fryer by choosing waxy red potatoes, slicing them thinly (1/8") and tossing them with oil, salt and pepper and crowding them on a baking sheet. They cooked perfectly in about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven, then held perfectly at 150 (we loosened them from the bottom and tossed them to keep them from gluing themselves together permanently) while we took a salmon fishing break on the jetty just before dinner.
Once we got back from fishing, Annabelle carved the duck while I made the sauce, and dinner was served.
We poured two wines, a Patrice Rion burg and an Isenhower "Wild Alfalfa" syrah from Washington State. Both were good wines, but the concentration of the Isenhower and it's bright, blue-black flavors really carried on with the piquant blueberries in our sauce.
Annabelle said it was the best duck, other than her own, she'd ever eaten. She has in fact leaned away from roasting because she always found restaurant versions dried out and kind of flavorless. Ours was fall apart tender but not dried out, due to the long slow roast and constant turning.
Anyway, here's a recipe, but beware of approximations--I don't measure.
handful of parsley
two sprigs each rosemary and thyme
1 tsp each salt and coarse ground black pepper
3 T pan drippings
1 cup beef broth (I used Swansons from the can)
2 generous T flour
3/4 c fresh blueberries
reserved duck neck and gizzards
4-5 medium sized red potatoes
2-3 T olive oil
salt and pepper
Remove giblets and excess fat, rinse and dry. Put the duck on a rack and bake at 200 for a couple hours to dry the skin, or use Marcella Hazan's hair dryer method or other method of your choice.
Drain the accumulated liquids from inside the duck and stuff with herbs,
salt and pepper. Throw the duck neck and gizzards into the roasting pan, too. Increase heat to 350 and bake the duck for one hour, then reduce the heat to 250 and bake for about two additional hours. If you want to go salmon fishing, here's your chance.
In the meantime prep the potatoes. Wash, dry, slice 1/8" thick, toss with oil, salt and pepper, then pile them onto a baking sheet. In the oven they go for about an hour at 400 degrees.
To make the sauce, remove the duck, neck and gizzards. Eat the gizzards and remove/shred the neck meat to add back to the finished sauce. Put the roasting pan on your stove top. Drain off all the fat. Deglaze the pan with the beef broth, then remove to a coffee mug. Add back 3 T of the fat, then add the flour to make a roux. Cook the roux for about three minutes, then add the deglazing liquid back. Add water (I cut the broth with water because my fat was well-salted and my beef broth was not unsalted, and my sauce was VERY robust, not watery at all) to adjust the consistency to your liking, then add the blueberries. You're done.
Divide the potatoes among four plates, then arrange some duck alongside and slightly overlapping. Spoon the sauce over the duck, garnish with chopped parlsey.
By the way, a thought about carving the duck: many people have a tendency to carve a duck in quadrants, like a chicken, and that's all wrong because the meat's all dark, and there isn't a lot of meat in the traditional dark meat areas. We cut them, therefore, in the Chinese style, using a cleaver and scissors to remove the appendages for eating with one's fingers, and cutting the back and breast portions into approximately 3" squares. This method will produce about 16 pieces you can easily divide into fair and equal portions.