Roast Duck on Bibb Lettuce Salad with Natural Juices

I like to serve the duck family style on a large platter so that everyone gets the piece they love with some of the salad.

Serves 6 to 8

2 ducks (4 to 5 pounds each)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 thyme sprigs
10 cups Boston lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup water or chicken stock
2 medium clove garlic
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons reserved duck fat
Reserved duck juices

Preheat the oven to 400º F. with the rack in the center of the oven.

Remove any innards (heart, liver, gizzards) from the duck and use for another purpose if desired. Dry the duck well with paper towels. Pull away any lumps of excess fat. Season the inside and exterior of the ducks with a salt and pepper, and place the ducks on a rack set in or over a roasting pan.

Place the ducks in the oven and roast for about 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours. The skin should be crisp and the duck cooked through but still very juicy. Lift off the rack and place it over another baking sheet. Let the duck rest on the rack, out of the oven for about 15 minutes to rest before carving.

Meanwhile pour off the fat and juices from the roasting pan into a bowl. The fat will rise to the top of the bowl. Place the roasting pan over a burner and add 1 cup of water or chicken stock. Bring the liquid to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan to release the reduced juices. Strain and reserve. Cut the duck into desired serving pieces. If the crust is not as crisp as you would like, place the pieces on a baking sheet and under a broiler just to crisp the skin.

For the dressing: Puree the garlic clove by running it over the tines of a fork or grating it on a microplane grater. Place the garlic clove in a bowl with the vinegar and a sprinkling of salt and a grating of pepper. Add the olive oil and whisk. The dressing should not emulsify. A broken dressing will give a beautiful sheen to the lettuce leaves. Whisk in the warm duck fat.

Toss the lettuce with the dressing and arrange the leaves on a large serving platter. Drizzle the leaves with about ½ the reserved duck juices. Arrange the pieces of duck over the lettuce and drizzle with the remaining duck juices.

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