Roast Duck With Apples and Prunes (Andesteg med æbler og svesker)
Christmas in August was the theme of a beautiful dinner we had at Bodil and Harry Wilson’s Berkshires house. Bodil prepared the special dishes she has made for Christmas Eve for half a century now: roast duck with fruits, caramelized potatoes (page 206), and sweet and sour red cabbage (page 208). She even brought out an embroidered table runner and decorated the house with julenisser—Christmas elves. Although the summer sun was still bright at 8 p.m., we closed the drapes, and the atmosphere turned so warming that we could imagine ourselves on a dark, wintry night. And sure enough, at the end of the meal, we opened the curtains to a starry sky. It was a lovely celebration, filled with earthy flavors and aromas and good cheer.
I’ve played with Bodil’s recipe a little bit, using apple cider instead of water as the duck roasts to feature the apples so distinctive of Danish cuisine—and of the Berkshires. The prunes will make the filling sweeter; how many you choose to use will depend on the desired balance between sweet and sour.
1 (6–pound) duck
3 firm apples, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
15 to 20 prunes
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups apple cider
2 teaspoons flour
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the extra fat from the duck, along with the neck and gizzard. Cut off the wing tips.
Rub the inside of the duck with salt and then with the lemon, squeezing the juice out into the cavity. Stuff the duck at both ends with the apples and prunes. Either sew the cavities shut with kitchen twine or close them with trussing skewers.
Rub the outside of the duck generously with salt and pepper. Place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side down. Roast for 10 minutes, then turn the duck breast side up and roast for another 10 minutes. Duck has a lot of fat, and the high heat allows much of it to cook off.
Lower the oven to 300°F. Remove the duck from the oven and pour the cider into the roasting pan. Roast the duck until the juices run rosy when the meat is pricked, about 13⁄4 hours.
Raise the oven to 450°F and roast the duck for 10 minutes more to crisp the skin. Transfer the duck to a carving board. Let the duck rest for 10 minutes before carving.
While the duck is resting, make the gravy. Pour the pan juices into a fat separator to remove the fat. You should have about 1 cup of defatted pan juices. Place the roasting pan on a burner and deglaze it with a little water, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour about three-fourths of the pan juices into the roasting pan, reserving the rest.
Place the flour in a small bowl and gradually add a little of the reserved pan juices, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Add the remaining reserved pan juices, then whisk this mixture into the juices in the roasting pan. Cook the gravy over medium-low heat until it has thickened, a few minutes.
With a large spoon, scoop the apples and prunes out of the duck and transfer to a serving bowl. Carve the duck into thin slices and place them on a platter. Serve with the fruit stuffing and a pitcher of the gravy.