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Eric Akis: Roast duck an option for smaller, special meal

If you want to roast a duck for a special meal — a Christmas or New Year’s dinner, for example — but are only feeding two, there’s a tasty upside: that one duck can be used to create three tasty meals for two.

If you want to roast a duck for a special meal — a Christmas or New Year’s dinner, for example — but are only feeding two, there’s a tasty upside: that one duck can be used to create three tasty meals for two.

The star attraction is the whole roasted duck, served with orange ginger cranberry sauce. The slightly more than two-kilogram duck I used yields three or four servings, so if you’re only feeding two, you’ll have leftover meat. I used that meat in a colourful main-course salad recipe that would make a nice winter lunch.

For the last meal the duck yielded, I started by simmering the carcass into a rich stock that I used as the base for two filling and divine servings of onion soup that would make a nice dinner on a rainy winter night.

Most supermarkets and butcher shops sell ducks, often frozen. Set in a sided dish in the refrigerator, it will take about two days to thaw. You could also thaw the duck in a few hours by submerging it in a sink filled with cold water.

Roast Duck with Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce

Duck, roasted in a hot oven until the skin is crispy and richly coloured, served with a sweet, sour and gingery sauce with cranberries. The duck yields two servings, plus leftovers for the salad recipe that follows.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 125 minutes
Makes: two servings, plus leftovers

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup warm tap water

1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 Tbsp honey

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1 Tbsp cornstarch

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 (about 4 3/4 lb./2.2 kg) duck

2 cups boiling water

To make sauce, place cranberries in a bowl, pour in one cup of warm water and soak until softened, about one hour. Drain cranberries well.

Thoroughly combine zest, juice, stock, honey, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, ginger and cornstarch in a small pot. Set over medium heat, bring sauce to a simmer, and simmer 30 seconds, until lightly thickened. Stir in the cranberries; season sauce with salt and pepper. Remove sauce from the heat, cool and refrigerate until needed for the duck. (Sauce can be made many hours before needed.)

To cook duck, set a roasting rack in a shallow-sided roasting pan. Remove neck (see Note) and any innards (if included) from the cavity and save the latter for another use. Prick and pierce the skin of the duck all over, several times, with a fork. Tie the legs together; fold and tuck wings under the body.

Set duck, breast side up, on the roasting rack. Slowly pour the 2 cups boiling water all over the duck. (This process tightens the skin and makes it crisper when cooked.) Let duck cool.

Preheat oven to 425 F. When duck has cooled, pour out any water that ended up in the cavity into the pan. Leave the water in the bottom of the pan. Pat the skin on the duck dry. Season duck with salt and pepper.

Roast duck 45 minutes. Lift up and tilt duck to drain the liquid in the cavity. Now carefully turn duck over and roast, breast-side-down, 45 minutes more. Turn the duck breast side up again and roast 30 minutes more, until skin is crispy and richly browned.

Transfer duck to a cutting board, tent with foil and rest 15 minutes. While duck rests, return your orange ginger cranberry sauce to a simmer.

When duck has rested, carve and serve with the sauce. Save duck carcass for stock (see recipe below).

Note: If the duck came with its neck, use it in the stock recipe below. If you have leftover sauce, freeze it to later heat and serve over another dish, such as roast chicken.

Festive Duck Salad

This colourful main-course salad yields two servings and uses up leftover meat from the roast-duck recipe. Add meat to taste, depending on how much you have.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: None
Makes: two servings

1/3 cup walnut pieces, or taste

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp honey

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

5 to 6 cups mixed salad greens

• sliced or shredded, cold roast duck, to taste

1/3 cup blue cheese or soft goat cheese, pulled into small nuggets

2 small to medium mandarin oranges, peeled and separated into segments

1/3 cup dried cranberries or pomegranate arils (seeds)

Place walnuts in a skillet, set over medium heat and cook a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.

Combine vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Toss in the greens. Set greens on two dinner plates. Top with duck, cheese, oranges, cranberries (or pomegranate arils) and walnuts, and serve.

French Onion Soup with Duck Stock

Filling and flavourful French-style soup made with rich duck stock.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: About 40 minutes
Makes: two generous servings

2 Tbsp butter

3 cups onion slices (about 2 small to medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced)

1 medium garlic clove, minced

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp dried thyme

3 1/2 cups duck stock

1/2 cup white wine (see Note)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 to 6 (1/2-inch thick) slices of baguette, toasted

1 cup (or more) grated Swiss or emmental cheese

1 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a medium pot set over medium heat. Add onions and cook until very tender, caramel-like and sticky, about 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in garlic, mustard and thyme and cook 30 seconds more. Pour in stock and wine and bring soup to a gentle simmer. Simmer soup 20 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

Set an oven rack six inches beneath your oven’s broiler. Turn on the broiler. Ladle soup into two large onion soup bowls and set on a baking sheet. Nestle and push two or three slices of baguette on top of each soup. Top and cover the bread with cheese. Broil soup a minute or two, until cheese is melted and light golden. Sprinkle soups with parsley and serve.

Note: If you can’t have wine, replace with 1/2 cup more duck stock.

Duck Stock

Use this stock as the base for the onion soup recipe. The leftover stock you don’t need for the soup could be frozen for another use.

Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus overnight chill time
Cooking time: two hours
Makes: About seven to eight cups

1 roasted duck carcass, cut or broken into large pieces

1 duck neck (optional)

1 small to medium onion, halved and sliced

1 medium carrot, sliced

1 medium rib of celery, sliced

1 large garlic clove, sliced

1 bay leaf

12 black peppercorns

• pinch dried thyme

10 cups cold water

Place ingredients in a tall, not overly wide pot (mine was seven inches wide). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat until liquid gently simmers (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Gently simmer stock, uncovered, two hours, or until richly flavoured. Strain stock, cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. Remove solidified fat on the stock and it’s ready to use and/or freeze for another time.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.