There can only be one reason that chicken has become a hum drum everyday dinner while duck maintains an air of the exotic. Though about as simple to cook as a roast chicken duck conjures up elegant dinner parties, society luncheons, aristocratic picnics. I'm sure the table at Downton Abbey has presented it's share of duck on carefully polished silver. Not that the juicy delicious bird doesn't deserve a culinary pedestal, but every now and then I like a simple rustic treatment. A dish I like to think a French farm wife (a duck farmers wife I assume) would offer her family. An accessible duck.
For our duck dinner I simply pricked the skin all over -- being careful not to puncture the meat -- stuffed some cut onions and thyme inside the seasoned cavity, and generously rubbed the skin with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I popped the duck breast side up in a 400º oven with about 1/2 cup of water in the pan. After 30 minutes I had a luscious pool of rendered duck fat just waiting a cluster of halved fingerling potatoes. Duck fat makes a fried egg a decadent treat, raises plain beans to a gourmet level but it is perhaps most generous to the humble potato. Roasted or fried potatoes flavored with duck fat act as eager sponges for the rich soaking up outstanding flavor. Though many a good matzo ball has depended on chicken fat for it's success, duck fat is something even more. It's unctuous, butter and savory all at once, exceptional in all types of dishes (hmm could I make a duck fat pasty?) a secret weapon of flavor. It is, in my opinion, what makes a duck a treat a chicken can never be.