Courtesy Mathieu Koenig, chef, L’Arbre Vert, Berrwiller, France
Duck is another popular entrée for feasts, and it works well with sweet elements. It’s surprisingly easy to cook at home, and it always turns out moist and crisp. Mathieu Koenig, chef at Koenig A l’Arbre Vert in Alsace, devised this festive recipe that champions seasonal Alsace ingredients available everywhere. While the duck is glazed with honey, the finished flavor is not sweet, but subtly aromatic, which will pair beautifully with Alsace Pinot Noir.
- 1 5½-pound duck
- 3 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon finely ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon duck fat or vegetable oil
- 3 large shallots, quartered
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2–3 tablespoons honey
Heat oven to 350˚F. Wash duck inside and out, and pat dry with paper towel. Remove wing tips with kitchen scissors or sharp knife, and reserve. Combine salt and pepper in small bowl, and season duck generously inside and out. Truss firmly with kitchen string.
Heat duck fat or vegetable oil in stovetop-safe casserole dish. Over medium heat, brown duck on all sides. Add shallots, garlic and wing tips when browning last side. Turn duck onto back, breast-side up. Place lid on casserole dish, and transfer to oven.
After 1 hour, put honey into small, ovenproof dish. Heat in oven briefly to melt. Remove honey and duck from oven, and brush honey across duck’s breast and legs. Return to oven without lid to brown, approximately 30–40 minutes, depending on how well it crisps. The duck can be basted once or twice with cooking juices. If skin gets too dark, cover again. Once internal temperature registers 165˚F, transfer duck to serving dish. Let rest.
Remove excess fat from casserole dish, and return to stove. Deglaze with water over medium heat. Bring to boil, and reduce slightly. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Strain into gravy boat. Serves 4.
This duck has quite robust flavors: succulent dark meat with honeyed richness. The evolved aromas of Hugel’s 2011 Grossi Laüe Limited Edition Pinot Noir from Alsace and the peppery verve of Syncline’s 2014 Estate Vineyard Syrah from Washington echo the earthiness. While it may sound unusual to pair white wine with duck, an Alsace Pinot Gris, like Domaine Ostertag’s 2015 Fronholz, from a very expressive and ripe vintage, has enough body to match the richness of the dish. The textural roundness of the wine answers the duck’s honeyed accent.
The earthiness of porcini mushrooms fried in butter will compliment the duck well. Frozen porcini can also be used. Shallow-fried slowly and gently, they’ll brown beautifully.
Choucroute (or sauerkraut) adds a real Alsace accent. Drain and heat with a little goose fat and Riesling. Onions and/or juniper berries can be added.
Parsnip purée offers a pleasantly creamy counterpoint. Boil rounds in salted water until soft, drain then purée with cream, and season with salt and pepper. Celeriac purée works as well, or a mix of parsnip and celeriac.