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PF Thanksgiving: A Different Bird Being the ‘Word’

Quack

Alas, I meant to post this earlier in the week but I was too entertained by this.

I love duck and I’ve come to discover that there is something deeply satisfying about slow-roasting a whole duck (hell, any bird, really). Done correctly, it invariably produces the requisite “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhs” from your guests as it is brought from oven to counter. Luke’s turkey the other day had the same effect, more appropriate for a Rockwell painting than our “very special” Thanksgiving table.

Duck is quite a grand, elegant meat. I love the fat it packs (it’s a lot), how a slow-roast produces meat that falls off its tiny bones and the combination of a crispy skin and succulent flesh become something special, elegant and refined. Roast chicken is a Tuesday night meal but duck means it’s time for the weekend.

This recipe is courtesy of the grand dame of Venetian cooking, Enrica Rocca whose cooking school in Venice was recently featured on “Gourmet’s Adventures with Ruth.” StuffedDuck

Not classically Italian, this duck brings to mind a different Venice. The Venice of the Republic, with its large ships bringing to port varying spices from the new world. The dominant flavors in the stuffing–ginger, pork and cilantro–root this dish firmly in Southeast Asia. And yet, it’s pure Venetian cooking.

I love the old/new world order this dish conjures and bridges.  Venice is a remarkable city. Many dub it their least favorite destination in Italy–too touristy, smelly…Disney-fied. Yet, it remains a unique place. In a city absent automobiles and traffic lights the traditional city-sensory experience is supplanted by other, more-nuanced sounds–pots clanging in kitchens, laughter…home life.

I was in Venice a few years ago over the New Year holiday. It was a mysterious time to be there; wet, cloudy and brooding. We all allowed ourselves to get lost down the many winding streets that were so intricate and quiet you felt that no one but yourself had ever ventured down them. Then, on the horizon, a tiny little gem of a restaurant, no more than twelve tables, would emerge.  I could easily see myself eating this duck in one such restaurant and being deeply satisfied.

Roast Duck Stuffed with Pork and Ginger

SERVES4
ACTIVE TIME:30 MIN START TO FINISH:3 1/2 HR
Enrica Rocca, Venice, Italy

1 (4- to 5-lb) Long Island duck (also known as Pekin), including giblets
4 slices slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup milk
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground pork
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, minced (1 Tbsp)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/2 lemon
GARNISH Chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 300°F with one rack in middle and one rack in lower third. Place a baking pan (larger than duck) on the lower rack.
Remove giblets from duck and cut into ¼ inch dice.
Put milk in a flat 8-inch square dish and put bread in one layer, turning each slice once, to absorb all of milk.
Tear bread into a bowl and add giblets, pork, cilantro, ginger, garlic, egg, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Mix together with hands to combine all ingredients evenly.
Pat duck dry and rub outside with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Fill cavity with stuffing and close opening with toothpicks. Squeeze lemon half over duck.
Place duck directly on upper oven rack positioning it directly over roasting pan (on lower rack beneath; this will allow air circulation for even browning and roasting pan will collect drippings). Roast duck until crisp and fork tender, 3 hours.
Let duck rest 15 minutes, then remove stuffing, in one piece if possible, and slice. Arrange on a serving platter. Remove meat and skin from duck in large pieces with a fork and a spoon and arrange around stuffing. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

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