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Spiced Roasted Duck with Fennel and Prunes

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Despite Alex's plea, I did not agree on traditional goose for this year's First Night dinner. The flow of time is rushing forward so fast that we barely have a chance to start missing something from the last year, goose is one of those things for me. Even buying a Christmas tree is not that exciting anymore. What is it - the faster spin of the planet Earth or just the ageing machine inevitably changing one's perception of time?.. I have no answer. So we compromised and bought a nice fresh duck.
The idea was to endeavor cooking Peking Duck, but the process seemed too complicated, so I ended up improvising again. This improvisation turned out superbly well in spite of being easy to do. Follow me to see the recipe.
What you need:
Fresh whole duck, thoroughly washed in cold water and paper-towel-dried
Some parsley to lay out the roasting pan
White pepper
Mix of ground spices: 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cassia (cinnamon), 1 tsp cardamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cumin.
1/4 tsp anise seeds, crushed in mortar
2-3 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated
Spray cooking oil

For the side:
1 bulb of fennel, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
20 pitted prunes
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped or thinly sliced
Salt to taste
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Some soy sauce(optional)
1/2 tsp anise seeds
1/4 tsp cassia (cinnamon)
Juice from plum compote or water

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 3 hours
Feeds 4-6 people

Set the oven at 325 F. The trick (that I took from Jamie Oliver recipe of Peking Duck) is to slow-cook the bird. Comparatively low temperature allows the fat to slowly escape while the skin is not over-browned.
Rub the bird with salt, pepper, and ginger, inside and out. Dust with spice mixture , rub it all over with hands. Put the duck, breast up, on roasting pan layered with parsley (you can use other herbs if you like, fennel would be nice). Turn the wings underneath the body, so that they do not stick up while roasting. Dust a little more spices on top. Spray with cooking oil (this prevents the skin to dry out while the fat is not rendering yet). Pour 1 cup water in the tray (this will prevent the bird's skin to dry out).
Toss the tray into the heated oven. Check the duck often, like every 15-20 minutes, and baste with the fat that will render on the bottom of the tray.
During the third hour of roasting prepare the side dish. Cover prunes with boiling water, set aside to soften. Saute fennel slices until caramelized, add prunes together with water, and the rest of ingredients. Simmer until fennel is soft, add more water if most of the sauce is evaporated. Taste for salt and other ingredients, add more this or that to satisfy your taste buds. The combination of fennel, with its delicate anise aroma, and prunes, with their enriched plum taste, made a perfect side for the spiced duck. It looked, tasted and smelled holiday. :)
Just out of the oven!
The skin was not as crispy as expected, but it was delightfully browned and delicious. The flesh was very tender and fragrant with spices.
The house smelled so good that the three cats (one of them mine and two Masha's, visiting for holidays) got agitated and gathered in the kitchen wondering what it was. To my amazement, a piece of spicy duck handed out to try was immediately gobbled up by my cat Fanny. I never thought cats like spices. Go figure.

Hopefully the Dragon was pleased by my First Night viands and will favor us all during year 2012!
Happy New Year!

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