It’s not as if Gourmandistan is unfamiliar with ovens. After all, we’re about to buy a new one because half of our decades-old double unit burned out from fun tricks like 24-hour pork roasts and 550° “turn the place into a pizza parlor” sessions. But we have been somewhat unsuccessful with home-roasting whole ducks. Saint Alice of the Incredibly Simple Roast Chicken Recipe (that’s salt, pepper, 400°, 1 hour) once disappointed us with a boring, too-greasy duck, though fervent acolyte Michelle put the blame on the bird (or the farm that raised it). Nevertheless, when we contemplated a course for the Marksbury Farm duck we’d pulled from our freezer, we decided to keep Alice on the shelf.
Consulting other tomes in our extensive library, Steve found credible sources advocating cutting the duck up into more easily cookable chunks such as legs and breasts. He pitched this idea to Michelle, who (despite Steve’s invocation of a high school anatomy course) doubted his ability to nicely dissect the bird and voted to once again roast it whole. (Gourmandistan’s current constitution gives Michelle’s vote slightly more weight. This, at times, causes mild unrest amid the rest of our nation’s population.) Using another recipe (and possibly a superior bird) helped produce a slightly better dinner, but we still didn’t think roast duck should be a regular feature on our dining rotation. Until Michelle found this recipe and reminded Steve he’d saved the rendered duck fat from our fair-to-middling roast.
Saving fat is somewhat of a habit in Gourmandistan, as we’re a lipid-venerating society. Butter is basically the head of our pantheon, olive is our trusted patron, but duck fat is also quite far up in the hierarchy. (In the underworld, awaiting our condemned souls: Olestra.) Steve has been trying to perfect focaccia, and found the Gourmet recipe/available duck fat opportunity too tempting to pass up. Substituting liquified duck fat for the more usual olive oil made even the rising dough marvelously fragrant, and baking the thyme-strewn rectangular pie filled the house with an amazing aroma. The final product had an excellent, rich roasted flavor, though Steve still wants the dough to be a little bit lighter. When we get our new oven we’ll probably try roasting a duck again. It may still not prove to be as delicious as Alice’s chicken, but the focaccia fringe benefits will be hard to resist.