Golden, crispy roast duck is a festive centerpiece for a celebratory meal, especially when stuffed with sage-scented sausage, red wine-soaked figs, toasted hazelnuts, and farro. Farro, an ancient varietal of wheat popular in central Italy, is a favorite in the Fatted Calf kitchen, where we add it to hearty soups and rustic salads. When cooked, it has a firm but chewy texture that also makes it perfect for use in stuffings. Although we like the toasty, nutty flavor of farro in combination with roast duck, this stuffing works equally well with roast quail, game hens, or other birds. [Editor’s Note: Even turkey. See LC Note below.]–Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller
LC Duck, Duck, Turkey? Note
Kindly note, dear reader, that this really, really phenomenal roast duck recipe calls for a duck that’s been deboned. As in, had the bones taken out. If you’re up for a slight challenge, like our recipe tester Elie Nassar was, by all means, do the deboning yourself. It looks more daunting than it actually is. Honest. “If you’re proficient with your knife and have 20 to 30 minutes, it’s a really satisfying experience,” Nassar explains, citing this how-to video for helping him get last Sunday’s dinner on the table. If you’d rather not, you can ask your butcher to debone the duck, although you best smile sweetly and ask well in advance of when you need it. (Beware: There may be a charge—a rather steep one—for this courtesy.) There’s a third option. If you’d rather, you can simply roast the duck whole—bones and all—and turn the stuffing into dressing and bake it on the side. (See the Variation below for instructions.) You know, like turkey. In fact, we think the stuffing would go equally well with turkey. Conversely, we also think this roast duck could easily supplant its cousin on the Thanksgiving table. Think about it.
Special Equipment: Kitchen string
Roast Duck with Farro Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 1 H
- 2 H, 10 M
- Serves 6
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 allspice berry
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- 12 dried figs (any variety)
- 1 whole (5 to 7 pounds) duck, deboned (see LC Note above)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pound breakfast sausage, uncooked
- 2 cups cooked farro (or substitute wild rice, brown rice, or mixed whole grains)
- 3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned*, and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1. A day before dinner, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the wine, sugar, bay leaf, thyme sprig, peppercorns, allspice, and a pinch salt. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat, add the figs, and cover. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight.
- 2. A couple hours before dinner, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Fit a roasting pan with a rack.
- 3. Trim any glands or blood vessels from the duck. Pat the duck completely dry with paper towels and place it on a cutting board, opening it like a book. Season it inside and out (that is to say, on both the meat and the skin) with salt and pepper. Turn the duck skin side down.
- 4. Drain the figs, trim the stems, and then quarter each fig lengthwise. In a bowl, combine the figs, sausage, farro, hazelnuts, chopped thyme, and parsley. Pat the stuffing into a cylinder about 3 inches in diameter and 3 inches shorter than the length of the duck. Place the stuffing directly in the center of the duck and roll the meat tightly around the stuffing. Tie the duck every 2 inches or so with a separate piece of kitchen string. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the duck skin in a crosshatch pattern to facilitate the release of fat during cooking, being careful not to cut the string.
- 5. Place the duck on the rack and roast it, basting the duck with the drippings that accumulate in the pan 3 or 4 times, for about 60 to 90 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the middle of the farro stuffing registers 160°F (71°C). If the skin starts to get a little too brown, you can lower the oven temperature to 325°F (165°C) so the duck finishes more slowly.
- 6. Remove the duck from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Carve into slices about 1 inch thick, removing and discarding the string. Serve immediately.
Whole Stuffed Duck Variation
- Can’t get anyone to debone that duck for you? No problem. What you want to do then is roast it whole—bones and all. Yup. Just pat the duck dry, season it with salt and pepper, and shove it in the oven. [Editor’s Note: If you lack a preferred technique for roasting duck, our recipe tester Elie Nassar roasted it on a rack in a roasting pan at 325°F (165°C) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours and it worked just dandy. You could stuff the bird with the farro and hazelnut and fig goodness or you could instead plop the stuffing in a small baking dish and slip that in the oven alongside the bird for the last little while. (When making the stuffing, you’ll need to amend it slightly. Sauté the sausage until no trace of pink remains, then mix in the rest of the ingredients, spoon it into the cavity of the duck or an 8-inch square dish or small casserole covered with a lid or foil, and bake until warmed through, 30 to 60 minutes.)] Easy peasy.
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Roast Duck with Farro Recipe © 2013 Taylor Boetticher and Toponia Miller. Photo © 2013 Alex Farnum. All rights reserved.