Even though the weather in our part of the world is still warm, the September evenings are bringing with them that first hint of cooler days to come. And with cooler weather approaching, my thoughts turn to platters of nice, tasty duck.
Here’s a recipe that you can make right now...or wait a few weeks until the frost is on the pumpkin.
Duck with Parsnips and Shallots
1 duck, cut into 12 pieces, neck skin reserved
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 large parsnips, peeled, ends trimmed, sliced into chunks (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cups large whole shallots, peeled (about 10 oz)
2 heads garlic, cloves (about 30), separated but unpeeled
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
Set a large pan over moderate heat. Slice the reserved neck skin into 3 or 4 strips and put them in the pan to begin rendering fat. Season the duck pieces with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the 1/4 teaspoon pepper. When there's enough fat to film the pan bottom, lay in all the pieces, skin side down (you can push aside the strips of neck skin, but leave them in the pan).
Raise the heat to medium-high, and cook skin side down and uncovered. The duck skin will shrink and color, and lots of fat will accumulate in the pan. Check the underside of the pieces once or twice to make sure they are not burning; lower the heat slightly if necessary. Fry until the skin on all the pieces is well browned and quite crisp; the whole process should take 20 to 25 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low. Leave the duck pieces on their skin - they should be half submerged in fat - and strew the parsnip pieces, shallots, and garlic cloves all around them in the pan. Add the rosemary and bay leaves, and sprinkle over 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure that the duck is gently steaming; adjust the heat as necessary.
When the duck and vegetables are tender - pierce with a sharp knife to check - turn off the heat. Immediately lift the duck and vegetable pieces from the pan with a spoon or skimmer, allowing the fat to drain, and arrange on a serving platter.
Pour off the clear duck fat from the pan - you will have 1 1/2 cups or so - and save for other uses. Add 1 cup of water to the pan, bring to a boil, scraping with a wooden spatula to melt all the solidified juice, and pour over the duck. Serve!