Simple as can be -- and leads to perfectly crisp skin and meltingly tender duck meat.
2 large ducks (fresh or thawed frozen, each about 6 pounds)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2. Trim the ducks: With a sharp knife, cut away excess fat and skin that hangs at both ends of the ducks. Trim thoroughly (you should end up with 2 to 3 cups of excess skin and fat, which can be discarded or used to render duck fat).
3. Salt the cavity of each duck, and prick each duck very thoroughly with a fork on both sides (25 to 30 pricks for each duck). Make sure to prick through the skin and subcutaneous fat only; do not prick the flesh of the duck.
4. Place the ducks on a rack set in a large roasting pan. Place pan in the oven, and roast ducks at 250 degrees. After 1 hour, prick ducks thoroughly on one side, turn them over, and prick thoroughly on the other side. Continue to roast with the newly turned side up. Repeat this procedure every hour.
5. After 4 hours of roasting, prick and turn once again. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Continue roasting, pricking and turning once, for an additional 30 to 90 minutes (see Note below).
6. When the ducks are done, let them sit for 15 minutes before carving. Season well with salt and pepper before serving.
Note: The amount of additional roasting time at 350 degrees is up to you. Do you want a juicier finished product or a crisper finished product?
If you roast the ducks at 350 degrees for 15 minutes on one side, prick and turn, then roast for 15 minutes on the other side, they will be very juicy and slightly crisp.
If you roast them for 30 minutes on one side, prick and turn, and 30 minutes on the other side, they will be juicy and crisp.
If you roast them for 45 minutes on one side, prick and turn, and 45 minutes on the other side, they will be pretty juicy and very crisp.
We prefer the middle path: 1 hour additional roasting time at 350 degrees.
One reason home cooks may have abandoned roast duck is that they perceived a high degree of difficulty in getting it right. But the above recipe, though it calls for many hours of roasting, is simple as can be -- and leads to perfectly crisp skin and meltingly tender duck meat. To serve the ducks, you could simply cut each one in half, and serve each person half a duck with the bone in. Or, you could fillet the breast and legs (making sure to keep the crisp skin intact), cut the fillets into 1/2-inch wide pieces, and arrange the slices attractively on dinner plates. Either way, it's an out-and-out winner, whether you're nostalgic or not. Serves 4.