Roasting a whole duck is like opening a window full of flavours. As daunting as it sounds, it is one of the most flavourful meats out there, and surprisingly easy to roast. In this recipe, the fennel seeds add that sweet, anise-like component, while the cumin seeds add the smokey, peppery and nutty flavours. The richness of the duck fat along with the rose petals produce the most delicious and aromatic duck.
As a passionate foodie and avid home cook, It is important for me to draw inspiration from the flavours I have tasted in my travels and restaurant experiences. The first time that we visited New York City was back in May of 2014, and luckily, had dinner at Eleven Madison Park (#4 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants that year). The most memorable dish for me at this restaurant, was a beautiful roasted Muscovy duck, with a skin coated with honey, lavender, cumin, and other spices. The spices added many depths of flavours and textures to the duck.
Another notable restaurant experience was my dinner at Noma in Copenhagen back in September of 2014 (#1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants that year). At Noma, we were served with a flatbread toast topped with brown butter and loaded with wild rose petals. It was the splendid richness of the brown butter combined with the aromas of the toasted petals that brought my taste buds to pure ecstasy.
I thought to myself, why not try to incorporate these beautiful experiences of flavours in my own home cooking.
For Thanksgiving, I decided to roast one of my favourite birds, the duck! It is just the husband and I for Thanksgiving dinner this year and I wanted cook something special for the two of us. And as much as he loves his traditional turkey, I wanted something smaller (and I always win!).
The thought of roasting a whole duck was daunting to me at first. After researching and reading recipes, I found that the key is to know what to do with the bird. Duck has a hefty layer of fat underneath the skin. Scoring the skin to let the fat render out not only produces a crispy skin, you also get a lot of duck fat, aka “liquid gold”. Duck fat can be stored in the fridge for months and can be used to roast vegetables or duck confit.
The beauty of this recipe is how the duck fat naturally “confits” the duck itself as the fat renders out of the skin and drip down the meat. Also, the duck fat will also drip over the vegetables and transform them into something flavourful and amazing. The fresh pomegranate adds a beautiful sweetness and brightness to the overall dish. The roasted fennel and cumin seeds not only adds a depth of flavours, but also provides a crunchy texture along with the skin. Lastly, there was something magical about the richness of the duck combined with the delicate rose petals that made this dish tasteful and enchanting.
Roasted Whole Duck coated with Fennel, Cumin, and Rose Petals
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 90 minutes
For the Duck:
1 whole Duck* , about 5lbs, innards removed
1 medium Onion, quartered
1/2 whole Garlic
1/2 Lemon, sliced
2 sprigs of Rosemary
10 sprigs of Thyme
5 Sage leaves
1/2 cup of Chicken Broth
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
For the Roasted Vegetables:
1 1/2 lbs. of Rainbow Fingerling Potatoes
1 bunch of Carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
1 bag of Pearl Onions, or about 15-20 pieces, peeled
1/2 whole Garlic
1 1/2 tablespoon of Chopped Rosemary, Thyme and Sage
1/2 lb. of Chanterelle Mushrooms (optional)
2 tablespoons of Pomegranate seeds
For the Crust:
1/4 cup of Honey
1 teaspoon or orange zest
1 tablespoon of Fennel Seeds
1 tablespoon of Cumin Seeds
1 tablespoon of dried Rose petals (you can also substitute with Lavender)
- Pre-heat oven to 425°F.
- Prepare the duck and remove the innards**. On a flat surface, set duck breast-side down. Using a sharp pairing knife, gently score*** the skin on the back of the duck extending to the thighs, focusing especially the fatty areas. Be extra careful not to cut into flesh, as this will dry the meat. Turn the duck breast-side up, and score the skin of the breast, extending to the top part of the legs. Scoring helps render out the precious duck fat out of the skin.
- Generously season the inside of the cavity and outside of the duck with salt and pepper.
- Stuff the cavity with onions, half the garlic, lemon, rosemary, thyme, and sage.
- Using a Kitchen Twine, tie the legs together.
- In a roasting pan with a rack, pour in the chicken broth and place the duck, breast-side down in the middle of the pan. Roast in the oven for about 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan occasionally until the fat is rendered, the broth is slightly evaporated, and the skin is golden brown.
- Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven, and remove the roasting rack with the duck and set it aside. Pour out the rendered fat into heatproof container.
- Toss the potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, garlic, chopped herbs in the roasting pan with 1/4 cup of duck fat and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the vegetables around the perimeter, and return the roasting rack with the duck, breast-side up in the pan. Roast for 50 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the duck registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- While the duck is cooking, combine the honey the orange zest together and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the fennel seeds and cumin seeds together.
- Remove the pan with the duck from the oven. Pour the honey-orange over the duck and spread it evenly all over the duck using a brush. Sprinkle the fennel-cumin seed mixture over the duck and side.
- Carefully toss the Chanterelle mushroom (if using) with the roasted vegetables in the pan.
- Return the pan an continue roasting the duck for another 10-15 minutes until the skin becomes golden brown from the honey and the herbs are fragrant.
- Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes before carving. Sprinkle the dried rose petals on top of the duck, the heat from the duck releases the beautiful aromas of the flower.
- Serve with the duck with the roasted vegetables topped with fresh Pomegranate seeds.
*I used Pekin Duck (or Long Island duck) as it is commonly available among many stores and butchers. If frozen, I suggest buying it two days before cooking time so it can defrost.
**In preparing the duck, I removed the wings and the wing tips for presentation.