The Amazing Five-Hour Roast Duck
Adapted from "The Best American Recipes 1999" by series editors Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). Slow-cooking the duck in a very low oven renders all the fat from this dark-meat bird. The skin turns as crunchy as peanut brittle while the meat becomes meltingly soft.
1 Pekin (Long Island) duck, wing tips cut off
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
5 fresh thyme sprigs
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and set a rack on the middle level.
Remove the package of giblets from the duck; save the giblets and wing tips for stock if you'd like. Rinse the duck with cold water and dry it with paper towels. Remove any loose gobs of fat from the 2 cavities. Rub the inside of the large cavity with salt, pepper, and the garlic, then fill it with the thyme sprigs. With a small, sharp paring knife, make dozens of slits all over the duck, piercing the duck skin and fat but being careful not to pierce the flesh - the easiest way to do this is to insert the knife on a diagonal, not straight in.
Put the duck breast side up on a rack set on a jellyroll pan and place in the oven. Every hour for 4 hours, take the pan out of the oven, pierce the duck all over with the paring knife and then turn the duck over. Each time you do this, pour off the fat in the pan.
After 4 hours, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper the skin and cook for about 1 hour longer, until the skin is crisp and browned. Remove the duck from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before serving. Carve the duck the traditional way, or section the duck by cutting it in half along the backbone with heavy kitchen shears and then cutting each half into 2 pieces. Or, to serve Chinese style, hack it with a cleaver into small pieces, bones and all.
By Victoria Abbott Riccardi, Globe Correspondent