For those of you looking for a way to squeeze in time with friends or family after crazy weeks and booked-solid weekends, I’d like to propose the frequently overlooked tradition of Sunday Dinner. When you’ve been trying for weeks to get together with the same couple of friends and weekends just seem completely booked, why not invite them over for a good old-fashioned Sunday supper. In this case, roast duck.
Growing up, we had Sunday dinners occasionally, more often when company or grandparents were involved and less often as we got older and hockey games were de rigueur on Sundays. This meal was typically in the late afternoon, well before our normal dinner hour, which I think is part of what makes it more of an event. Plus, the only other times we ate “dinner” at 3:00 or 4:00pm were major holidays, so there was a festive air to the whole production.
I have recently rediscovered my love for this special Sunday meal. While my husband was in graduate school and we lived in rural New Hampshire, his Sundays were often consumed with work and I was left to my own devices for entertainment. Naturally, I headed for the kitchen and put my efforts towards a meal that I wouldn’t have the time or desire to make on a weeknight. Roast chicken has always been a favorite, so that became a staple, as did my bouts of Sunday baking. Homemade apple pie or cookies following a roast chicken and mashed potatoes on a cold, blustery Sunday (which it was in NH more often than not) would have only been made more complete had we had a fireplace for the ultimate cozy factor!
This past Sunday, I roasted my first duck for my good friend and fellow gourmande Shelby (aka Lady Gouda) and her hubby-to-be, and what a feast we had. Jokingly dubbed ‘Autumnfest,’ I tried to create a seasonal menu, complete by serving the soup in pumpkin tureens I received at my bridal shower last year. After warming up with a Patriots victory and a few pumpkin brews, we sat down to celeriac and apple soup topped with crispy sage leaves, followed by roast duck with a trio of vegetables that were–get this–ALL cooked in the sumptuous duck fat. Although this duck is not technically difficult and I encourage you to NOT be daunted by roasting a whole duck, there are several steps and you are required to transfer hot duck fat from time to time, so an extra set of hands was very helpful. This isn’t a roast you can just throw in the oven and leave to its own devices.
Unfortunately I have no photos of the cheese course, so you’ll just have to take my word that we followed the meal with slabs of Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar from Prince Edward Island and an English goat’s milk cheese called, adorably, Tickelmore. Now pay attention–we did NOT eat the rind of the Avonlea, as it is made of cloth. Despite this, the Avonlea had a delicious tanginess and sharpness that was perfect with local bosc pears and accompanied by my ginger peach chutney. The Tickelmore was bright and milky, sweet and grassy. We paired both cheeses with Farnum Hill Ciders (stay tuned for much more about Farnum Hill).
Lady Gouda outdid herself with a Pear and Cranberry Crostada that was to die for, the fruit succulent and plump, the crust flaky and of the perfect sweetness.
Even though Sunday dinner does not have to be this big of a production each week, I think it will continue to happen quite frequently around here.
Roast Duck, Butternut Squash, Chanterelles, and Haricots Verts (adapted ever so slightly from Bon Appétit’s Roast Duck, Butternut Squash, Cèpes, and Green Beans, October 2010)
Notes: I wasn’t able to find fresh cèpes (porcini mushrooms), so I replaced them with chanterelles. Also, for a meal with this many courses, the amount of duck per person was adequate, but be aware that this size of a duck yields 4 smallish portions of meat, much less than a chicken of comparable weight.
I paired with Chateau St-André Corbin and Chateau Brisson, two Bordeaux neighbors. Pinot Noir would also work well.
1 5- to 5 1/2-pound duck
1 2 1/2-pound butternut squash, halved, seeded, cut into 2 to 3 inch chunks
8 shallots, peeled
20 large fresh sage leaves
1 pound green beans or haricots verts, trimmed
1 pound chanterelles, cut vertically into 1/3 inch-thick slices
3/4 c. low-salt (homemade preferred) chicken broth
Preheat oven to 425. Pierce duck skin all over with tip of small, sharp knife. Place duck, breast side down, on large rimmed roasting pan and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp, about 50 minutes. Transfer duck to a plate and reduce oven temperature to 350. Pour off fat from baking sheet into medium bowl; reserve fat. Return duck to roasting pan, breast side up. Scatter squash, shallots, and sage around the duck, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1/4 cup reserved fat over vegetables, and roast together for 45 minutes. Turn vegetables, and continue roasting until drumsticks are tender, about another 45 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Meanwhile, cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain beans and spread out on another baking sheet to cool. Heat 3 tablespoons reserved duck fat in heavy large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute mushrooms until tender and beginning to brown, 2 to 3 minutes and then add to baking sheet with beans; toss. Roast until heated through, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer roasted duck to a plate and let rest. After a few minutes, place duck on serving platter with squash and shallots. Pour the juices from the plate onto the baking sheet with the haricots verts and chanterelles. Using slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to platter and also arrange around the duck.
Pour remaining pan juices from baking sheet into medium bowl and spoon off any fat. Place roasting pan over two burners on the stovetop. Add reserved juices and broth to the pan, bring to a boil, and scrape up any browned bits. Pour pan juices into small pitcher and season with salt and pepper.
Serve duck and vegetables, passing pan juices alongside.