Nothing is more festive than a whole roast duck burnished with crispy golden skin. It may seem intimidating, but it is very similar to roasting a chicken. The main difference is that duck takes a bit more tending. It takes longer to cook and a lot of fat is rendered as the duck roasts, which must poured off from time to time as it accumulates. Apricot jam with a touch of vinegar creates a pleasing glaze and apple, shallots and rosemary tucked into the cavity perfume the meat as it cooks.
Add the potatoes near the end of cooking to give them a head start before adding the olives and prunes. Finally, brush the duck with glaze until the skin is a deep golden brown. You only need to add a salad or a green vegetable if you like. Salty olives, sweet prunes, apricot glaze and rich meat with crispy skin come together to deliver a knockout dinner.
Happy holidays, friends!
FOR THE GLAZE
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
FOR THE DUCK
1 5-to-6-pound Long Island (Pekin) duck
1 tablespoons kosher salt
1 apple, quartered
1 bunch rosemary
12 small waxy potatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup pitted prunes
3/4 cup pitted green olives
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Have on hand a roasting pan with a rack.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk the water, jam, vinegar and salt until combined. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 seconds. Set aside.
3. Remove the neck and giblets from the duck cavity, and save for another use such as stock. Pull off and discard the fat deposits from the cavity and neck flap skin. Prick the skin all over with the tip of a paring knife, taking care not to pierce the flesh.
4. Sprinkle the cavity and the outside of the duck generously with salt. Stuff the apple pieces, shallots and rosemary into the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the neck flap under the bird. Set it on a rack, breast side up, in a roasting pan.
5. Roast the duck for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove and pour off the excess fat from the pan into a bowl. (If you like, save and use for cooking.) Add the potatoes to the pan and roast for 15 minutes longer.
6. Remove the duck from the oven again. Add the wine, prunes and olives to the pan. If the glaze has cooled, warm it gently to thin it. Brush the glaze over the duck and return it to the oven. Continue to brush with glaze every 10 to 12 minutes for 20 to 25 minutes longer, or until the skin is crisp and golden and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165 degrees. Check often and tent with foil if the glaze starts to brown too quickly. (Total cooking time is about 2 hours and 20 minutes.) Remove and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
7. To carve the duck, start with the legs: use a sharp knife to cut between a leg and the breast. Pick the duck up so you can slice around the joint and use your fingers to snap the leg joint. Slice along the backbone to remove it with the thigh. Repeat with the second leg. Once the legs are separated from the carcass, place the duck with the breast side up. Cut along the breastbone on one side of the duck to release it from the carcass, and repeat on the other side.