28 November 2010

Thanksgiving: The Birds (part 1)

That was an intense day. Wow.

We got up at 10 and started the cooking at about 11ish - Tom chopped the more unsavoury parts off the duck while I went to the butcher's to buy a second (which turned out to be a chicken. Thankfully that was definitely a mistake we could pass off as 'on purpose'). I peeled potatoes, tore up bread for stuffing, put the second bird in the oven, made the stuffing, made biscuit dough, defrosted the vegetables, boiled potatoes, peeled more potatoes for sweet potato mash, made persimmon chutney, boiled the sweet potatoes, sliced garlic, boiled and saut├ęd vegetables, baked everything that needed to be baked, and made both gravy and a savoury black raspberry and cranberry sauce. Oh, and a pumpkin pie with rum cream.

Tom was wonderful and did all the things that a busy woman who is scared of getting her hands burnt couldn't do.

I wore my new apron all day and was very happy.

So, the duck and chicken. I used an amalgamation of probably four recipes, focusing mainly on Nigella's brine and Sophie Grigson's slow-roasted duck method. Personally I think that two and a half hours at 180 degrees does not a 'slow' roast make, but whatever, we were busy.

Roasted Duck and Chicken
Serves 5 with plenty of leftovers

1 duck (2.5kg)
1 chicken (2kg)
3 bay leaves
Lots of water (I used roughly 2.5l)
2 tangerines
2 onions

I started the duck the day before cooking, having decided ten minutes before I had to leave for work that I wanted to brine it, despite having read at least seven articles online about how brining does nothing for duck meat. I quickly scrubbed a bin that was being used for tin recycling, shoved the duck in, poured in the water, and added several tablespoons each of salt, pepper, cinnamon, parsley, thyme and bay leaves, that being what was on hand. I stirred the water briefly, covered the whole thing with a plate and left it for six and a half hours. The duck wasn't quite submerged, so I then turned it upside down and left it for a further four hours. I drained the water and let the duck dry in its bucket overnight.

The next morning, both the duck and chicken were prepared as follows: the neck was sawn off and put to one side for future use in stock. Each was stuffed with one tangerine and one peeled onion. The skin was lightly pricked and covered in salt and pepper. The birds were put in the oven at 200 degrees (390 Fahrenheit) for twenty minutes, then at 160 (320 Fahrenheit) for a further two hours. Tom basted the birds regularly. They were removed from the oven, wrapped in foil, and left on top of the ovens to keep warm. Ten minutes before carving, they were placed back in the oven in their foil coats to reheat through.

Both were delicious, although the chicken had dried out somewhat. It hardly mattered as there was an abundance of sauces and other dishes to cover that up, and the dryness contributed to a sense that we were actually eating turkey!