Slow-Cooked Duck with Olives

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

My son, Nick Wolfert, a film industry assistant director, adores duck confit. Though a fine cook in his own right, he never makes confit himself. He prefers to wait until he comes home for the holidays, at which time he expects to find a crock of the stuff waiting to be crisped up by his loving mom.

This year, when I forgot to put up confit, he was so forlorn I offered to enlarge his horizons by teaching him how to slow-cook a duck in the oven that would have the familiar meltingly tender texture of confit, a crisp skin, and also a sauce. Nick was skeptical.

“Confit is like wine and women,” he said teasingly. “It gets better with age”

Still, I thought he would like this “quick” slow version nearly as much. The method I use, Spanish in origin, goes against most of the principles of duck oven cookery that appear in cookbooks. I halve the duck instead of cooking it whole. I don't put it on a rack. I never turn it. I don't remove the fat during cooking. Rather, I nestle the duck in a bed of chopped vegetables, and these, along with the fat rendered during cooking, keep the flesh succulent and flavorful. I only remove the duck fat at the end while the bird rests, garnering about two cups, perfect for sautéing potatoes, starting a stew, or preparing a small batch of real confit.

I explained to Nick that this dish would fit perfectly with his lifestyle. He could prepare the duck Saturday morning, clean up his kitchen, separate the fat from the pan juices, begin the base for a delicious sauce, and then go about his errands. That night, all he'd have to do is reheat the duck and crisp the skin just before serving.

He could finish his sauce with sautéed onions, caramelized root vegetables, glazed dried fruits, spiced lentils, or herb-flavored olives. The olive sauce, I explained, would provide an extra dimension of flavor, as good in its own way as the slowly developed flavor one gets from a well-preserved confit put up for one to three months. The base for the sauce should be made well in advance; then the sauce is quickly finished while the duck reheats.

“It would be a great dish to serve to a prospective girlfriend,” I added.

Steps 1 through 5 can be done early in the day or the day before.

Ingredients

  • 1 duckling (5 to 6 pounds), fresh or thawed
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large celery rib, sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, halved
  • tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • Green Olive Sauce

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Halve the duckling, setting aside the back, neck, and wing tips for the sauce. In a 9 by 11-inch roasting pan, make a bed of the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, ¼ cup of the parsley, and the bay leaves. With the tines of a fork, prick the duck skin every ½ inch. Rub the duck with a combination of the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence and set it on top of the vegetables, skin side up. Roast, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Reduce the oven temperature to 275°F, cover the contents of the pan with foil, and leave the duckling to cook for about 3½ hours, or until it is very tender. Turn off the heat and let the duckling cool in the flavored fat in the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Carefully transfer the duck to a work surface. Remove and discard any loose bones, chopped vegetables, and clumps of fat. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the fat for Step 5. (Reserve the remaining fat for another use.) Quarter the duck; gently squeeze or press each portion to maintain its shape, and wrap individually in foil or plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Set aside in a cool place or in the refrigerator.
  4. About 30 minutes before serving, unwrap the duck quarters and generously season the flesh side with salt, pepper, and more herbes de Provence.
  5. About 10 minutes before serving, preheat the broiler and set the rack about 10 inches from the heat source. Dab the duck skin with a little duck fat and run under the broiler to reheat the duck and crisp the skin.
  6. Pour the sauce with the olives into a shallow, warm serving dish, place the duck on top, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve at once.

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