A duck roast is surprisingly easy to make, and can be a real showstopper at the table. We have a few beautiful fresh ducks left from our friends at Road Trip Farms in Niagara. These are Muscovy ducks, with a decent amount of fat and a rich ruby-coloured meat.
Here is an abridged recipe from my book Cooking Meat that walks you through the duck roasting process. It is similar to the process to make a roast goose as well – another game bird that we’ll be bringing in fresh this holiday season. Either way you slice it, a carved duck or goose is a great holiday meal!
1 (about 4 pounds) Muscovy duck hen
2 clementine or mandarin oranges
2 whole rosemary sprigs
Salt and pepper
Orange and Ginger Sauce
2 shallots, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped ginger
5 strips orange peel (use a vegetable peeler)
1 star anise
½ cup mirin (or dry white wine)
Juice of 1 orange
2 cups Beef Stock
3 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp cold water
- Two hours before serving, remove the duck from the fridge. Place the duck, breast side up, on your cutting board and remove the wishbone to making carving easier. Save the wishbone for the pan sauce. Use a sharp paring knife to score the duck breast in a crosshatch pattern at ¼-inch intervals, making sure that you’re only cutting through the skin and not into the meat of the breast.
- Roll the clementines (or mandarins) on your work surface to break up the cells of the fruit inside. Using the tip of the paring knife, poke 8 to 10 holes all around the fruit. Place the clementines and rosemary sprigs inside the cavity of the bird, then truss the duck and season it liberally with salt and pepper. Place the duck on the roasting rack and set the roasting pan on the center rack of a cold oven.
- Turn on the oven to 450˚F. Roast the duck until the skin is a deep golden, about 15 minutes from when you turn the heat on. Turn down the oven to 300˚F and roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165˚F, about 1 hour. Remove the duck from the oven and allow it to rest, covered, for 20 minutes before carving.
- While the duck is resting, make the sauce. Drain the fat and roasting juices from the pan into a bowl and reserve. Set the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat and add the wishbone, shallots, and ginger, stirring well until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the orange peel and star anise and sweat for another minute, scraping up any bits of roast that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the mirin, bring to a simmer, and reduce by half, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the orange juice and reduce by half again, about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Using a tablespoon, skim the fat from the top of the reserved roasting juices and reserve it for another use. Add the roasting juices and beef stock to the saucepan, bring to a simmer, and reduce by one-quarter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make a slurry by whisking the cornstarch with the cold water in a small bowl. Slowly whisk the slurry into the sauce, bring the sauce to a simmer, and allow it to thicken—that should take a few minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat.
- To serve, carve the duck into slices and arrange them on a platter. Serve with the gravy alongside.
As you all know, we primarily deal with meat. However, one cannot live on meat alone! We need something to so on the side of the meat, after all. And this recipe for Gratin Dauphinois, abridged from my book “Cooking Meat”, is one of the best potato side dishes you’ll ever have. Save this one for the holidays: you will not be disappointed.
Serves 10 to 12
2 Tbsp butter
3 Spanish onions, thinly sliced in half moons
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy (35%) cream
1 tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
10 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
3 cups grated Gruyère cheese
- Melt the butter in a large pot over low heat. Add the onions, cover, and cook gently until translucent. Add the garlic, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown and all the water they have released has evaporated, 2 or more hours. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 13- × 18-inch baking pan or casserole dish with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cream and eggs. Season the mixture with the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
- Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes about ¼-inch thick. You can do this by hand but it’s much trickier and your results may be uneven. Add the sliced potatoes to the cream mixture.
- Using a spoon, arrange a quarter of the potato slices in a thin layer over the bottom of the baking pan. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese, spoon one-third of the caramelized onions over the cheese, and pour one-third of the cream mixture over the onions. Repeat this layering, finishing with a layer of potatoes and a sprinkling of cheese.
- Cover the gratin first with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake until a paring knife easily pierces the center of the potatoes, about 2 hours. Remove the foil and plastic wrap and continue baking until the top of the gratin is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Give the gratin a few minutes to stop bubbling and set before serving hot.
In celebration of the start of braising season, here’s an abridged recipe from “Cooking Meat”, my book about all things meaty, available at all fine booksellers. This particular recipe is for a simple beef pot roast, one of the truly magnificent roasts that you can start on a Sunday morning to enjoy that night, and your home will be all the better for it. Start thinking ahead to next weekend and plan for a delicious braise!
Simple Beef Pot Roast
Serves 6 to 8
1 (4 pounds) blade roast
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices bacon, medium diced
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup chopped rutabaga
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 herb bundle (4 rosemary sprigs, 4 thyme sprigs, 3 bay leaves)
3 cups Beef or Chicken Stock
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp cold water
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Have a roasting pan with an elevated roasting rack ready.
- Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper, then rub it with the oil. Place the beef on the roasting rack and roast until golden brown all over, about 30 minutes.
- While the beef is browning, place the bacon and onions in a large ovenproof pot over medium heat, stir well, cover the pot, and let cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, and rutabaga, stir, and cover again, sweating all the vegetables until fragrant and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir well, then deglaze the pot with the wine.
- Add the herb bundle to the pot and season the contents of the pot with salt and pepper. Add the browned beef and turn the oven to 300°F.
- Add the stock to the pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat, ladling off and discarding any scum as it rises to the surface. Once it’s simmering, cover the pot and place in the oven for 1 hour.
- Lift the lid, turn the beef over, and return to the oven until fork-tender, about 1½ hours. Carefully transfer the meat to the cutting board and tent it loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm. Discard the herb bundle.
- Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Place the liquid in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water. Slowly pour the cornstarch slurry into the braising liquid, whisking to incorporate, and simmer until thickened. If the sauce seems too thin, make a little more slurry and add it in the same way.
- To serve, slice the beef against the grain and arrange it on a serving platter. Drizzle with some of the sauce and pour the rest into a gravy boat to serve alongside.
Here’s my recipe for a simple roast chicken, adapted from my book “Cooking Meat”. It’s a soul-warming dish that works perfectly on these cooler autumn nights.
1 (3½ pounds) whole chicken
Salt and pepper
1 bulb garlic, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
½ bunch thyme
1 cup butter, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 450˚°F. Have a roasting pan with an elevated roasting rack ready.
- Season the chicken quite liberally with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, take a healthy pinch of salt and let it fall like snow all over the chicken. Repeat with the pepper.
- Cut the lemon in half widthwise, juice one half over the chicken, and stuff the other half into the cavity. Slice the whole bulb of garlic widthwise and put both halves into the cavity. Push the bay leaves and thyme into the cavity too.
- Using your hands, rub the butter all over the chicken, massaging it into the crevices and putting a healthy coating over the entire bird. Set the chicken breast side up on the roasting rack. Roast the chicken for 15 minutes, then, without opening the door, turn the oven down to 350°F and roast for another hour.
- Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. It should read 160˚°F to 165°F. (If not, return the chicken to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes more and check again.) Turn the oven off, keep the door closed, and leave the chicken inside for another 15 minutes. This will allow the chicken to rest and the internal temperature to rise to about 165˚°F.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and carve. Arrange the meat on a serving platter. Strain the delicious roasting juices from the pan through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat and pour it over your platter of carved chicken.
A good stock is one of the most important building blocks of my kitchen. I use it for soups, for braised dishes, and for sauces. A little chicken stock goes a long way in rice or vegetable dishes, adding depth of flavour that water simply can’t match. A well seasoned broth is excellent homemade medicine when you’re feeling run down. It is made very simply, with few inexpensive ingredients, and can last for months in your freezer (assuming you keep it that long).
Here is a basic recipe for a roasted chicken stock, one of the most versatile stocks you can have in your kitchen. This recipe is adapted from my book “Cooking Meat”, where I use it in many other recipes. Like I said, it’s a building block!
Makes 5 liters
5 pounds chicken bones, preferably carcass or back bones
5 tsp salt
5 garlic cloves
4 carrots, cut in half
3 onions, cut in half widthwise
3 celery stalks, cut in half
1 leek, cut in half
6 thyme sprigs
5 bay leaves
1 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the chicken bones with the salt, arrange them in a single layer in a roasting pan, and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
- While the bones are roasting, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, cut side down, and sear until they’re dark brown. Remove them from the pan and chop.
- Place the roasted bones and onions in a stockpot with the garlic, carrots, onions, celery, leeks, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Add just enough water to cover the bones and bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat to low, use a spoon to skim off any scum that’s risen to the top of the stock, and simmer for another 2 hours.
- Remove the stock from the heat and allow to cool for 1 hour before straining through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container, like a mason jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
We all know that the best charcuterie in Toronto is found at our stores, but perhaps you’ve been feeling a bit adventurous and would like to try your hand at being your own charcutier?
Chicken Liver Mousse is one of the easiest and tastiest “gateway drugs” into the world of charcuterie. The ingredients are easily sourced, the method is straight-forward, and the results are silky smooth deliciousness on toast. I highly recommend trying this at least once in your life, you won’t be disappointed!
Here is the abridged recipe from my book “Cooking Meat”, found in store and at all great booksellers.
Yield: Makes about four 1-cup jars
1 pound chicken livers
½ cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup cold butter, diced, plus 1 Tbsp butter for cooking
1 cup minced shallots
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
½ tsp ground paprika
½ cup brandy
¼ cup rendered chicken schmaltz or duck fat (optional)
- Clean the livers by trimming them of any visible fat, green bits (which would be from the connected gall bladder), or excess membrane. Place the livers in a bowl, cover with the milk, and allow to soak for 1 hour. Discard the milk, rinse the livers well, and dry them completely using a towel. Remove as much moisture as possible so they fry well.
- Season the livers liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add half the livers to the pan and cook until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked livers to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining livers. Turn down the heat to medium.
- Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in the pan, then add the shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and paprika and sweat until the shallots are translucent. Deglaze the pan with the brandy, scraping all the bits off the bottom of the pan, and cook until the brandy is reduced by half, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Place the chicken livers and shallot mixture in a blender and purée on high speed. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of cold butter, stirring until fully emulsified. Season, if needed. Strain the purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean measuring jug.
- Have ready four sterilized 1-cup jars with lids. If using, melt the schmaltz (or duck fat) in a pot over low heat.
- Fill each jar three-quarters full with the liver mixture, then spoon 1 Tbsp of the hot fat over each mousse to prevent it from oxidizing. Tightly seal the lids and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develop. The mousse will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Note: if not using schmaltz or duck fat, I would apply a layer of plastic wrap to the top of the chilled and set mousse. This will help prevent oxidization.
I only roast a turkey once a year, so I want to make sure it is an excellent recipe. I developed this one years ago and it works so well that I included it in Cooking Meat, my cookbook about all things meaty!
The following is an abridged recipe from that book. There are a few steps involved, but I believe it is truly worth the extra effort.
Be sure to start this the day before the celebration.
Serves 8 to 10
3 quarts water
1 cup salt
1 cup granulated sugar
6 garlic cloves
8 thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
1 quart ice cubes
1 (15 pounds) turkey
Vegetable oil for drizzling
2 cups unsalted butter
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and chopped
1 bunch thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 bunch chives, chopped
1 Tbsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper
½ cup Madeira or port
1 cup butter
2 large onions, small diced
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves
Giblets and liver from the turkey, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
1 carrot, grated
1 bunch sage, leaves picked and sliced
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper
½ cup Madeira or port (optional)
1–2 cups turkey or Chicken Stock
4 cups 1” cubed stale bread (cube it the day before and leave it to dry out)
2 cups white wine (divided)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp cooking fat (from the turkey)
1 turkey neck (from the bird), roughly chopped into smaller chunks
2 shallots, finely diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
4 thyme sprigs
4 sage sprigs
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
3 cups dark turkey or Chicken Stock
- In a stockpot large enough to hold the turkey, bring the water to a boil with the salt, sugar, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. When the salt and sugar are dissolved, turn off the heat and add the ice. Allow the brine to cool.
- Remove the giblets, liver, and neck from the turkey (usually these are in the neck cavity). Set them in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Place the turkey in the stockpot with the brine (or place it in the brining bag, add the brine, and then place it in a bowl). Refrigerate for at least 15 hours (allow 1 hour per pound).
- To make the compound butter, cut the butter into slices and arrange them on a plate at room temperature to soften. In a small bowl, mix together the sage, thyme, chives, allspice, salt and pepper to taste, and Madeira. When the butter is soft, add it to the herb mixture and, using a spatula, fold them all together. Shape the butter into a rectangle on a layer of plastic wrap, roll up, and refrigerate overnight.
- On the day of the celebration, remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry. Discard the brine and set the turkey aside at room temperature while you make the stuffing.
- To make the stuffing, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and bay leaves, cover, and, stirring frequently, sweat until the onions start to change color slightly, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the giblets and liver, cook for another 5 minutes, and then add the celery, carrots, sage, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper. Turn up the heat to medium and sauté, stirring frequently, until the celery starts to take on a bit of color.
- Add the Madeira (or port), if using, and reduce by half. Add 1½ cups of the stock and bring to a simmer. Place the diced bread in a medium bowl and pour the stock mixture over top. Mix thoroughly. If you find the mixture too dry, add a little more stock, ¼ cup at a time, until the stuffing is moist. Add some salt and pepper if required. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have a roasting pan with an elevated roasting rack ready.
- To prepare the turkey, lift the skin at the front of each breast and use your fingers to make a pocket between the skin and the breast meat. Cut the compound butter into ½-inch slices and slide the slices under the skin so they cover the breast. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the bread stuffing. Place the turkey on the roasting rack. Season the bird with salt and pepper and drizzle enough oil over it to cover the skin.
- Place the pan on the center rack in the oven and roast, basting every 30 minutes or so with the pan juices, until a thermometer plunged into the thigh of the turkey reads 180°F and the breast or stuffing reads 165°F, 4½–5 hours. Remove from the oven and transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Wrap the turkey in aluminum foil and then a towel to keep warm while it rests.
- To make the gravy, tilt the roasting pan slightly and skim the fat off the top of the drippings, reserving 2 Tbsp. Place the roasting pan on the stove over medium-low heat and add 1 cup of the wine. As it simmers, scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to lift up all of the bits of caramelized roasting juices. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- In a separate saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the reserved fat. Add the turkey neck, cook until brown, add the shallots and garlic, and sauté until golden. Add the flour and stir vigorously to make an aromatic roux. Add the thyme, sage, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste, and then deglaze the pot with the remaining 1 cup wine. Turn down the heat and stir constantly for about 5 minutes to cook the alcohol from the sauce. Add the stock, whisking to incorporate, and then add all the drippings from the turkey pan, mixing well to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve into a gravy boat.
- Use a spoon to remove the stuffing from the cavity and place some in a bowl and some on the turkey serving platter. Carve the turkey.
- To serve, present the platter of turkey with the stuffing and gravy to your hungry (and happy) guests.
I'm a fan of old cookbooks that are usually found in garage sales throughout Ontario, usually in dusty old "$1" boxes. You know these books. They were usually published by church groups, or community business associations, and had titles like "Getting the Most Out of Ground Beef", or "Dairy Mothers of Paisley Journal Best Recipes".
One of the defining trends in these books (really, they are usually barely more than leaflets) are recipes that can stretch your dollar on the kitchen. And one way that happens is by taking a cut of meat, and stuffing it with cheaper ingredients to make a meal that will feed more for less. I love stuffing a cut of meat with other aromatic ingredients, as it can completely change your expectations of what that cut is intended to be.
A great example of this is flank steak. Flank can be stuffed, rolled, or sliced for a variety of recipes that change how you look at the otherwise tasty, but one dimensional, steak.
In the following recipe (adapted from my book “Cooking Meat”, I have used flavours of the Mediterranean to stuff a flank. This flavour combo is a cherished one of mine (I use feta and olives a lot), and the flank takes well to the briny-ness of the stuffing. This dish goes well with a light pasta salad.
1 (about 2½ pounds) whole flank steak, trimmed of any silverskin
2 Tbsp olive oil + more for rubbing the steaks
1 cup minced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
½ cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper
- Cut the flank into 6 thin, evenly sized steaks. To do this, place the steak on a work surface with the long side parallel to you. Cut the flank in half through the muscle grains. Then, cut each half into thirds, along the muscle grain.
- Cut a pocket into each flank steak. To do this, use a thin boning knife. Holding the parallel to your work surface and starting at the thickest end of the steak, plunge the knife blade into the meat, being careful not to cut all the way through. Wiggle the knife a little to create a pocket. Think of the steak like a pillowcase—you’re creating the opening in which to put the pillow. In this case, the pillow (stuffing) is delicious. Once you have cut the pocket in each steak, remove the knife, set the meat on a plate, and refrigerate, uncovered, while you make the stuffing.
- To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sweat until slightly caramelized. Add the olives and sundried tomatoes and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs, parsley, and green onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the bread crumbs are slightly toasted. Remove from the heat and stir in the feta cheese. Mix thoroughly to combine and set aside to cool.
- Arrange the steaks on a cutting board. Using a tablespoon, stuff the olive mixture into the pocket of each steak. Seal the end of each steak with a couple of toothpicks. Rub each steak with some oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and as long as overnight.
- To cook the flank, you can either grill or pan-fry it. Either preheat your barbecue to hot on one side and warm on the other or preheat the oven to 400°F.
- To grill the steaks, place them on the hot side of the barbecue and sear, until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks to the warm side of the grill. The steaks are done when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 140°F. To pan-fry the steaks, heat two ovenproof frying pans over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and brown on one side. Turn the steaks over and place the pans in the oven until the steaks are cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove the steaks from the heat, discard the toothpicks, and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
- To serve, slice the steaks into ½-inch rounds, and serve either on a platter or on individual plates.
One of my favourite things to do when the weather is grey and gloomy is cook something, preferably something that bubbles away on the stovetop while you do other rainy day activities like build a puzzle or read a book. Here is an abridged recipe from my cookbook "Cooking Meat" for a Poached Chicken. It is a simple recipe, and definitely one that can be modified to suit your palate (and use up whatever is in your vegetable drawers).
1 (3½ pounds) whole chicken
2 onions, cut in large dice
2 carrots, cut in large dice
2 turnips, cut in large dice
1 celery stalk, cut in large dice
1 leek, washed thoroughly and cut in large dice
5 garlic cloves, halved
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
1 herb bundle
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup shredded cabbage (Savoy or green)
12 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp finely chopped thyme
Salt and pepper
2 cups roughly torn stale French bread
1. Place the chicken, onions, carrots, turnips, celery, leeks, garlic, salt, peppercorns, and herb bundle in a deep pot and just cover with cold water. Bring the water to a low simmer over medium-low heat and poach the chicken, uncovered, for 1½ hours, skimming and discarding any fat and impurities that rise to the surface.
2. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. It should read 180˚F. (If not, cook the chicken for 5 to 10 minutes more and check again.) The meat will be pulling away from the bone, especially around the leg knuckle. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to cool in its own liquid.
3. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a cutting board, reserving the poaching liquid in the pot. Using a sharp knife, cut the breasts and legs away from the carcass. Using your thumb, strip off any meat clinging to the carcass and put it back into the pot with the vegetables. Discard the skin from the breasts and slice the meat before adding it to the pot. Discard the skin from the legs and strip the meat away from the bones. Place the leg meat back in the pot and discard the bones. Discard the herb bundle, then bring the broth to a simmer over medium-low heat.
4. To finish the chicken, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cabbage and mushrooms, stir well, and cover. Steam the vegetables until fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm.
5. To serve, place a few pieces of torn-up bread at the bottom of each bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cabbage and mushroom mixture, then ladle a good amount of the chicken and vegetable mixture with some broth over everything and serve.