November’s Other Bird

Braised duck with Turnips and Apple Brandy
Photographed by Mark Fleming

Crown the holiday table with a rich and savory roast duck.

By Annemarie Ahearn

Cool days and cold nights call for braising meats on the bone and digging into the root cellar while potatoes, turnips, and beets are crisp. Duck is perfect for this time of year. Its rich flavor is a treat around the holidays, particularly when spiked with apple brandy, nestled among purple-top turnips, and lavishly ladled with its own decadent sauce. Take any opportunity to cook meat on the bone, as it lends natural thickeners to the dish and protects the meat from drying out. If you don’t see duck at your local butcher shop, ask them to special order it.

 Braised Duck with Turnips and Apple Brandy

Serves 4–6

One 3–4-pound Muscovy duck (or Moulard)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 heaping tablespoon flour

2 tablespoons calvados (a standard
store-bought apple brandy will do)

4 purple-top turnips cut in eight wedges
or 10 hakurei turnips cut in half

4 cups chicken stock

4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked from stems

6 sprigs parsley, leaves picked from stems

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butcher the duck: Cut off thighs and legs (keeping them together) and then remove breasts and wings. (If you’re uncomfortable doing this on your own, ask your butcher to help.) Score the fat of the breasts three times each on a diagonal without cutting into the meat. Season duck liberally with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy, shallow pan (preferably cast iron), brown legs and breasts (skin side down) over medium-low heat in one single layer. This will take time (about 20 minutes), as the breasts have a thick layer of fat, which will slowly render into the pans.

Once meat has browned, remove from fat and pour off all but 2 tablespoons duck fat (it can be reserved for later use). Add shallots and a pinch of salt and let cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour on shallots and distribute the mix equally in the pan using a wooden spoon. Let cook for 1–2 minutes, toasting the flour. Deglaze with brandy, turning the flame off when you pour in the alcohol. Turn the heat on and up and let reduce for another 1–2 minutes.

Add the turnips and stock and let boil for 5–8 minutes. Once sauce has slightly reduced, add legs and wings (skin side up) and sprinkle thyme on top. Place in oven for 15 minutes, then nestle breasts (skin side up) alongside legs and cook for another 5–10 minutes or until breasts are medium rare. Remove, place breasts on a cutting board, and slice across their length in ⅓-inch pieces. Consider separating the leg from the thigh, so guests have a choice of light and dark meat. Serve with plenty of reduced sauce and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

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