Crisp Roast Gressingham Duck with a Forcemeat Stuffing and a Confit of Apples and Prunes
Since starting the How to Cook series I have at last hit on the very best way to get really crisp roast duck. If you've got a Gressingham duck then you'll have lots to eat as well as a really superb flavour. If you like, the confit can be made well ahead; it's usually served at room temperature. The duck should be as dry as possible, so buy it 24 hours in advance, discard the wrapping and remove the giblets, dry it in a clean tea cloth and leave it uncovered on a plate in the fridge till needed. I think this needs some crisp roast potatoes and some of those lovely imported shelled fresh peas.
You need to see to the stuffing first by making the breadcrumbs in the food processor.
Then add the apple, onion, sage and parsley and duck liver and process these till finely chopped. After that add the sausage meat, some mace and a good seasoning and briefly process again till it is all roughly but not too finely blended.
After that wipe the duck again then using a small skewer, prick the fatty bits of the duck's skin, particularly between the legs and the breast. Now pack the stuffing loosely into the body cavity.
Next you can either place the duck on the roasting rack in the tin or make a rack yourself by crumpling some kitchen foil and placing it in the bottom of the roasting tin. Season with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper, using quite a lot of salt, as this encourages crunchiness. Next put the onion wedges in the bottom of the roasting tin then place the tin on the centre shelf of the pre-heated oven and roast the duck for 30 minutes on the highest shelf.
Then reduce the heat to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) and continue to roast for 2½ hours. During the cooking time, using an oven glove, drain the fat from the corner of the tin – do this about three times (the fat is brilliant for roast potatoes, so don't throw it away).
While the duck is roasting, make the giblet stock.
To do this, place all the ingredients, along with 1 pint (570 ml) water, in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring everything up to simmering point, skim the surface of any scum that rises, then simmer everything gently, without a lid for 1 hour, by which time the liquid will have reduced by about a quarter and the flavour concentrated. Strain the stock, discard all the debris, cover and leave aside until needed.
Next make the confit – it can be made at any time, the day before even. All you need to do is cut the apple into quarters, remove the core, then cut the quarters into ½ inch (1 cm) slices, leaving the skin on.
Then place all the ingredients together in a medium-sized saucepan, bringing everything up to a gentle simmer, then let it cook as gently as possible, without a lid, for 45 minutes to an hour – you'll need to stir it once or twice until the liquid has reduced to a lovely sticky glaze, but do not overstir otherwise it will break down into a mush.
When the cooking time for the duck is up, allow the duck to rest for 20 minutes while you make the gravy. Begin by spooning off the excess fat from the roasting tin and when only the dark juices are left, work about 1 level tablespoon of flour into these juices over a low heat.
Now, using a balloon whisk, whisk in the giblet stock, bit by bit until you have a smooth gravy. Let it bubble and reduce a little to concentrate the flavour, and taste and season with salt and pepper. Then pour into a jug and keep warm.
To serve the duck, first remove the stuffing to a warm bowl.
Divide the duck into portions (see How to Carve a Duck here).
Give each person two pieces and serve with the stuffing. The gravy and confit can be handed round separately.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F (230°C).