Roasted duck makes for a decadent holiday meal

Cooked correctly it makes an elegant and sumptuous showstopper fit for the fanciest of parties

One winter many years ago, I spent weeks planning a Christmas dinner party for all my Navy friends who couldn’t travel home to their families.

I was deep in my “party planner” phase then, and I wanted the event to be as fancy as possible. I sent out invitations on glittering cardstock with golden ribbon, asking guests to dress in cocktail attire. I decorated my home with lights and garland, and a pine-scented candle attempted in vain to transform that balmy Honolulu evening into the December of my childhood. I served prosecco and expensive spirits, sushi ordered from a nice place downtown and arranged in a huge spread on my table, and champagne cupcakes (the only thing I made myself).

I loved the pageantry of it — the energy of a room filled with the mix of many perfumes and the sound of many voices, the sight of silk and tulle and pearls. It made me feel like I had made it in the world.

This year, I served a homemade meal on the same lovely blue hummingbird plates I use every day. The room was filled with the mix of small (but loud) voices, children’s carols, the scent of sugar cookies, and errant sprinkles on the floor.

We had dinner early so we could fit in another sledding trip in the blizzard, and then we put the kids to bed on time. As I climbed the stairs to my room, I looked down at my happy home and knew that I had made it in the world.

I decided on roasted duck for our Christmas dinner. Duck is not everyone’s favorite, but cooked correctly, and with an acidic sauce to cut the fat, it makes an elegant and sumptuous showstopper fit for the fanciest of parties.

Roasted Duck


1 whole roasting duck

3 or 4 oranges — thinly sliced

About ¼ cup fresh ginger, thinly sliced

For the rub:

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon clove

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground allspice

For the sauce:

1 cup fresh or frozen honeyberries (or blueberries)

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons orange zest


Take your duck out of the freezer two days before you plan to cook and let it thaw in the refrigerator.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Line the bottom of your roasting pan with the sliced oranges.

Set your duck into the pan breast side up and pat dry with paper towels.

Trim off any excess fat.

Take a very sharp knife and score the skin of the breasts in a crosshatch pattern. Be careful not to cut deep enough to slice the meat — just cut through the skin and fat layer.

Make a few punctures with the tip of your knife between the leg and the breast on each side.

Massage the rub mix all over the duck.

Stuff the sliced ginger inside the duck. You can also add some orange slices in there if you wish.

Roast at 425 for 20 minutes then drop the heat to 300 and continue roasting for about 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees.

While the duck is roasting, prepare your sauce by boiling all the ingredients down until the sauce has reduced and is somewhat sticky, then keep warm until ready to use.

As soon as the duck is out of the oven, brush some of the sauce over the entire duck, then let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serve sliced with an extra spoonful of sauce on top.

When the whole pan has cooled to room temperature, strain the fat that has accumulated at the bottom and save it for future cooking use. Duck fat is culinary gold — don’t waste it! Use it to add rich flavor to your sautéed vegetables or as a base for a decadent sauce.