Roast Duck with Potatoes and Pancetta

Gene Gerrard
    110 mins

This is one of those incredibly simple recipes that yields big delicious flavors. I've adapted it from Nigel Slater's recipe for Christmas duck, which I think can be enjoyed any time of year. The ducks (you'll need two, since there isn't as much meat on a duck as on a chicken) are simply seasoned with Kosher salt and pepper and then roasted on quartered Yukon gold potatoes with chunks of pancetta. The potatoes absorb the flavors of the duck and pancetta and couldn't be more luscious. 

What You'll Need

  • 2 whole ducklings
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1/2 pound piece of pancetta
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3 to 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup Marsala 

How to Make It

  1. One hour before roasting the ducks, remove the necks from the ducks. Trim away the excess fat around the cavity and reserve.
  2. Rinse the ducks inside and out then pat dry with paper towels. Set the ducks on a baking sheet, and let them come to room temperature (keep them in a cool place, but not refrigerated).
  3. Peel the potatoes and quarter them length-wise. Pat the potatoes dry with paper towels. Cut the pancetta into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.
  1. Peel the onions, and cut them in half. Then cut each half into fourths. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat the olive oil in a roasting pan large enough to hold both ducks over low heat on the stove top. Add the pancetta, and lightly sauté 2 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, and using a wooden spoon, turn them in the pancetta and olive oil to evenly coat. While the potatoes are cooking, strip the leaves off the fresh thyme sprigs and add them to the potatoes.
  4. Stir in the onions and the bay leaves. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Sauté the potatoes and onions for about 5 minutes, until they're just starting to turn golden. Take the roasting pan off the heat.
  5. Prick the ducks all over with a fork. Liberally season the ducks inside and out, and lay them on top of the potatoes and onions. Put the roasting pan into the oven and roast the ducks for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Occasionally drain the rendered fats and discard. If some of the potatoes or onions get too brown, turn them and baste them with the roasting juices.
  6. While the ducks are roasting, heat a large skillet over low heat. Put the reserved duck necks, fat and skin into the dry skillet. As the fat renders, pour it into a preservatives jar or glass measuring cup. You'll wind up with about a cup of the rendered duck fat. Allow it to cool and refrigerate for later use.
  7. After 1 hour of roasting, check to see if the ducks are done by piercing the underside of one of the thighs with the tip of a sharp knife. If a bloody juice exudes, roast the ducks an additional 15 minutes or until the juices run pale yellow.
  8. Take the ducks out of the oven and transfer the potatoes to a serving platter. Tent loosely with foil. Turn on the broiler and put the ducks into the oven on the lower rack for about 5 minutes to crisp up the skin.
  9. Transfer the ducks to a carving board, and put the roasting pan on the stove top over medium heat. Pour in the Marsala, deglazing the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a low boil, then lower the heat and simmer while you carve the ducks.
  10. Carve the ducks and arrange on the platter with the potatoes. Add any accumulated juices to the pan gravy.  Taste the pan gravy and add salt and pepper if needed, then spoon the gravy over the carved ducks and serve.