Over the last year, I’ve had a great time (and some delicious meals) cooking one recipe per month from The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater. Being that it’s the end of the year, this will be my last (official) recipe that I’m posting as part of my personal challenge. I’m sure I will continue to make many a recipe from this book as there were several months when I had a hard time choosing just one thing. For now, I leave you with Nigel’s roasted duck with potatoes and pancetta, and a chance to win your own copy of this fabulous book (see the end of this post for details).
I changed this recipe quite a bit, mostly based on the fact that the original recipe would have made entirely too much food for two – even though Nigel claims it serves two. (I’m starting to think it It’s actually sort of amazing Nigel didn’t gain about 50 lbs. the year he was writing this book.) The original recipe calls for a whole duck, 6 potatoes, and 5 oz. of pancetta. I didn’t want to roast an entire duck or butcher one and store the remainder. So, I decided to just roast two duck breasts instead, which ended up being a perfect amount.
Obviously with the original recipe, you would be cooking this for quite a while – about an hour and a half according to Nigel. The duck breasts would turn out rather, errm, not good, if you went that timing. Instead, I decided to sear the breasts on the stove-top first and then finish them off in the oven on top of the potato and pancetta mixture. Normally I like my duck somewhere between medium rare and medium but being that I’m pregnant, I decided to cook mine more fully (and pull Tom’s out earlier). Of course, because I wanted the potatoes to cook through (and I wanted them to have at least some of the flavor from the duck fat renderings), I had to make some adjustments with prep and cooking time—namely, cooking the potatoes and pancetta on their own for a bit before adding the duck breasts on top of them. The amount of time you do this will vary on how rare/well you like your duck.
This turned out marvelously. Between the duck and its rendered fat, the pancetta, and the marsala, this is an incredibly rich meal. It is without a doubt something I urge you to try for a slightly more upscale Sunday supper or really, just any day of the week, whether you make it the way I did or with an entire duckling. I definitely think using the whole duck would make this even richer as it would have more time to render its fat and flavor the potato mixture. I made this dinner in my cast iron skillet (but seared the duck in a stainless steel skillet, since the cast iron was already in the oven), and it turned out perfectly. I was able to use the same pan I used to cook the pancetta/potato/onion mixture, and they all turned cooked down together beautifully. We had this with some roasted brussels sprouts.
Roast Duck with Pancetta and Potatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil + more for searing duck
3 oz. pancetta, diced
3/4 lb. potatoes, cut into 1-2″ pieces (I used baby reds & left the skin on, Nigel recommends peeled Maris Pipers)
1 medium onion, cut in half and each half cut in sixths
4-5 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1-2 bay leaves
2 duck breasts (about 6 oz. each), skin on
1/3 cup marsala
Preheat the oven to 400.
Place the pancetta in a roasting pan or a large pan that can go into the oven (I used my cast iron skillet) with the olive oil. Warm it over a low heat, letting the pancetta flavor the oil without letting it color. Add the potatoes to the pan and let them cook slowly. After a few minutes, add the onion, thyme and bay. Turn everything over as it cooks, letting the potatoes and onions brown slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.*
Score the skin of the duck breast with a knife (you just want to score the skin, not cut the meat), and season both sides of the duck with salt and pepper. Heat a little bit of oil (you won’t need much because of the fat in the duck) over medium to medium-high heat. Once it’s hot, add the duck skin side down and let it sit there crisping for about 5 minutes.
Pour about a tablespoon of the duck fat renderings over the potato and pancetta mixture and stir to combine. Place the duck breasts over the potatoes, and continue to roast all together until duck is cooked to your liking.
*The time you cook the potatoes will vary based on how long you cook your duck breast. For a medium rare duck breast, about 8 minutes in the oven after searing should do the trick, so you will want to cook the potatoes for about 35-40 minutes first. If you are cooking the duck more fully, add it after about 25 minutes of cooking the potatoes and cook everything for another 15-20 minutes or so.
Inspired by Nigel Slater
The Kitchen Diaries Giveaway
I actually had a hard time finding this book, so I hope that doesn’t mean it’s being discontinued! Even if it is, I have a copy in my hot little hands, and it can soon be in yours.
To enter for a chance to win the cookbook, just leave a comment telling me your favorite seasonal recipe or dish. A special stew for the winter? A fresh berry tart in the summer? I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winter. Please enter by midnight on January 11 for your chance to win.
Please note that I can ship to U.S. and Canadian residents only.