I rarely make recipes from magazines, but it always seems that when I do, it’s from Saveur. It’s my favorite food magazine, and the only one I still subscribe to, although Plate is pretty damn good, too, even though it’s geared for professionals. When I started reading the latest issue of Saveur, what should I see but an article written by my friend Kate Hill!
Kate lives in Southwest France. She helped me with my book Duck, Duck, Goose, and I’ve butchered pigs with her in Portland, Oregon. Her article featured a slow-roasted duck with grapes recipe that she called canard a la vigneronne — winemaker’s duck.
It’s a simple recipe: duck with grapes, shallots and thyme. Braised first, then roasted to crisp the skin. You eat it with lots of crusty bread.
Remember this is an old school, European-style roast duck, which means the breast meat is cooked through. That’s the only downside of this recipe in my book, but I mitigated it by using very fat wood ducks. Use a fat duck for this recipe — oh, and if you are using a store-bought or domesticated duck, you’ll only need one.
I like serving this in shallow bowls or a plate with a well in the middle because you want the meat to swim in the sauce that develops in the pot. It keeps everything nice and prevents the breast meat from drying out.
Originally, this dish was done with chickens, so I reckon you could use one, or a pheasant if you have a nice rooster lying around.
This is a very simple recipe that I do with fat wild ducks. You can use domesticated ducks equally well. Don't do this with a skinny wild duck, as the meat will dry out too much. And yes, it must be done with a plucked duck. Substitute pearl onions for shallots if you want. Always eat this with good bread.
- 2 whole small wild ducks, or 1 large wild duck, or a domestic
- 1 pound red grapes, on the stems
- 12 to 15 shallots or pearl onions
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch fresh thyme, on the stems
- 1 cup duck or chicken stock
- 1 cup red wine
Salt the ducks well, inside and out. Preheat the oven to 400F. Pour the stock and red wine into the bottom of a heavy, lidded pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the 2 bay leaves. Arrange the shallots, grapes and thyme in the pot, then nestle the ducks on top. Cover the pot and roast in the oven for 90 minutes.
Uncover the pot and let everything cook down. This will also crisp the skin of the ducks. This can take anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on how fat your birds were. Keep an eye on it.
Slice the ducks in half lengthwise, and serve everyone a half duck with some of the shallots and grapes, along with lots of sauce.