The roast duckling we ate for Christmas dinner is probably the best I’ve cooked. It was tender and juicy, but still flavorful with brown, crispy skin. My family prefers duck to turkey or even chicken because it is ALL dark meat. We think dark meat tastes better and, of course, it is more moist. Here’s what we had for Christmas dinner and how I prepared it.
2 ducklings with giblets
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch beets with greens
1 head cauliflower
5 to 6 red potatoes
Prepare the ducklings
Remove the giblets and neck, then rinse the ducklings and giblets and pat dry. Set the neck aside for making broth with the bones later. Tuck the wings under the back and place the birds on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush all sides with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the giblets in a small baking dish and add a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat all sides of the giblets. You may cook the giblets now or cook them, as I did today, when the ducklings are almost done so that they may be served with the rest of the dinner. Sometimes I cook the giblets earlier to eat as an appetizer while we wait for the dinner to finish cooking. If you want to serve them with the dinner, put the baking dish in the refrigerator until time to cook.
Roast the ducklings for about two hours at 325 degrees, then raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue cooking for about 15 more minutes or until done. Cooking at the higher temperature for a few minutes promotes browning without reducing juiciness. The birds are done when the breast skin is lightly browned, the skin around the legs is beginning to pull away from the bone, and the juices are no longer pink or red. See below for cooking the giblets.
Wash the potatoes and cut into approximately equal size pieces to ensure they are all done at the same time. Leave small ones whole and cut larger ones into halves or quarters. Place in a saucepan, cover with filtered water. About 30 minutes before the ducklings will be done, bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Test with a fork. Drain and add butter. Serve.
Beets with greens
Separate beets from the greens. Peel and dice the beets. Wash the greens and cut into large pieces. About the same time that you start the potatoes, melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan, add diced beets to the butter in the saucepan, and cook over medium heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add beet greens, cover, reduce to simmer and cook for about 5 to 10 more minutes until wilted. Beet greens cook quickly very much like spinach. Sprinkle with a little salt and serve.
Wash the cauliflower and separate into flowerets. Place the flowerets in a large saucepan and add about one cup of filtered water. Just after reducing the heat on the potatoes, bring the cauliflower and water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes. Test with a fork for doneness. Drain and add butter. Serve.
About 20 minutes before serving time, put the small baking dish with the giblets into a preheated toaster oven (or regular oven with the ducklings if your oven is large enough for both). Cook the giblets for about 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees until the giblets are done. The giblets are special treats. We cut them up so that everybody gets a piece of the liver, heart, and gizzard.
Sources: We’re lucky in Houston–our climate is great for winter veggies! Both the cauliflower–a very pretty green cauliflower–and beets were found at my local farmers market. Greens, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and beets are abundant here right now. The red potatoes were organic but not local. The butter is Kerrygold from grassfed cows. I use Celtic Sea Salt. The freshly ground black pepper is organic. The olive oil is unfiltered organic extra virgin.