This verdant dish is based on a composite of two recipes: one from Elizabeth David’s classic French Provincial Cooking, and a similar one from Rick Stein’s first Food Heroes book. David pot roasts the bird, makes a stock from the giblets as the base of her gravy, and bulks the peas with bacon. Stein adds cooked gem lettuce to the peas (the ‘à la française’ part) and roasts the duck in the English manner. I thought I’d combine the best bits of each: I liked the bacon idea, and dry roasting the duck yields equally tender, somewhat less fatty meat. The result was a roaring success, although once again my photography skills were so useless, I couldn’t bear to put the picture up…
Serves 2 – 4, depending on the size of your duck
1 duck, with giblets (mine was a little under 5 lbs)
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, halved and peeled
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
Few strands thyme
Small bunch parsley
2 Little Gem lettuces, outer leaves removed, cut across the root into six pieces
200g unsmoked lardons or diced pancetta
400g frozen petits pois
Small bunch spring onions, green bits removed, white bits halved
2 tsps redcurrant jelly
Several hours in advance if possible, or even overnight, cover the duck generously with sea salt, including inside the cavity. Leave to rest in a cool place. This will help the skin crisp and the fat run out during cooking.
To make the gravy, place all the duck giblets except the liver into a medium saucepan with the onion, carrot, celery, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, a couple of twists from the pepper mill, and 1/2 pint water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer gently, covered, for what David calls ‘a good hour’ (which I took to be about an hour and 15 minutes). Strain, discarding the giblets, and reserve the broth.
Preheat oven to 230 C. Wipe off the excess salt from the duck with a dry cloth (a wet one would undermine the whole point of the salting), season with pepper, and score the skin four or five times across each breast, just skimming the meat. Place in a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes, then drain off the fat, and return to the oven with the heat turned down to 180 C. Leave to roast for an hour – or an hour and 15 minutes if you have a very big bird – pouring off the fat every 15 minutes or so. Duck fat is just as good as goose fat for roast potatoes, and keeps very well in the fridge, so you may want to hold on to it.
About ten minutes before the duck needs to come out the oven, start making the petits pois. Sweat the lardons in a saucepan, with a little olive oil if you think they need it, until they’ve taken on some some colour. Add the spring onions and leave to soften for a couple of minutes. Throw in the lettuce and let it wilt slightly, then pour in the frozen peas and a few tablespoons of water. Put the lid on the pan and allow the peas to cook over a lowish heat for about ten minutes, or until ready. Taste and correct seasoning – with the bacon, you may not need any salt.
Once the duck is removed from the oven and roasting tin, put the tin back on the hob and, over a medium heat, add the giblet stock, redcurrant jelly, and a few more sprigs of thyme. Scrape away the lovely caramelised bits on the bottom of the tin and incorporate them into the gravy. Simmer gently for five or six minutes, correct the seasoning, then pour into a jug or gravy boat. By now, the duck should have been resting for ten to 15 minutes. Carve, and serve in thin slices over the peas. Pour over the gravy, and serve on very hot plates with some mashed potato.