Whole Roast Duck with Turnips, Garlic, and Balsamic Herb Sauce

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Duck must be one of the most overly complex and needlessly confusing recipes on the web. It has almost reached mythical status among home cooks for that reason. I found a lot of conflicting information, obscure french country recipes, and low and slow recipes.

So here is the issue: Duck has a big old layer of fat under the skin. This fat is both delicious and your enemy. It’s a pain to manage in the cooking process and causes all the back and forth. But my building of a duck recipe came down to three wants:

  1. Crispy skin
  2. Not dry meat
  3. Delicious sides

I found one recipe that called for four hours at 300 degrees. That’ll crisp a duck’s skin and also dry it to a sad sad state. Also, ducks have no white meat and it is all dark (no really). So final temp of 170-75 is desired.

So I used five cross references for the recipes. Thomas Keller, The French Country Cookbook, The Silver Spoon Cookbook, Culinary Birds, and Jaime Oliver. This brings us to the final recipe for you all.

This can be made without the sauce which is a bit more advanced in the prep style. So don’t let it scare you.


One whole duck
Turnips (or any root vegetables)
One large leek, cut in strips
One large yellow onion or two small ones, sliced
Two cloves sliced garlic, diced
Two carrots, sliced
One Shallot, large dice
One head of garlic whole with skin sliced in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon Salt
For the sauce:
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons Butter, cut into small slices
1 sprig tarragon, chopped but don’t chop it until right before you incorporate
6 basil leaves
3 crushed peppercorns
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons cream, or to taste
* Click to ingredient to choose one


One day before you begin:
Wash the duck inside and out with cold water. Then dry with paper towels thoroughly. Cover the outside and inside of the bird with a tablespoon of salt. Put uncovered in the fridge on a rack to pick up drippings for minimum 24 hours. Why are you doing this? Well we’re dry brining the bird which takes time. Also, drier skin is crispy folks!
Pre-heat your oven to 350.
Take the duck out of the fridge. Then score it in a criss cross patter (you can see it in the images above and below). Be careful to cut into the fat and not all the way to the flesh. Then poke teeny holes in the bird all over. This is so the fat can escape.
Now I roast this is a huge cast iron dutch oven that is goose sized. Now everyone has such an item so a roasting rack is fine. But two things. First, the bird shouldn’t touch the bottom of the pan or it will stew in juices. Second, you’ll need to space for all the delicious veggies. Spread the chopped onion, carrots, shallots, and sliced garlic in the bottom of the pan. Don’t put in the turnips yet.
Take the sliced garlic head and a big piece of aluminum foil. Put it inside with the butter and the sprinkle of salt. Wrap it up folded enclosed in a pouch. Put in the center of the pan under the bird moving other veggies as needed. Put the roasting rack on top of all this in the pan.
Put the duck breast side down in the rack. Stick your thermometer in the deepest part of the breast for monitoring.
Throw that in the oven!
Now relax for forty five minutes.
15 minutes before it is done chop up your root vegetables. Then have a sheet pan read to receive your duck for a few.
After an hour passes pull the pan out. Pull the duck out of the pan with huge tongs or paddles. Place on the sheet you have ready for it. Poke it all over again! This is when you throw your chopped starch veggies (turnips or potatoes) into the bottom of the pan on the sides. And here is a controversial statement. Don’t pull the duck fat out. Roast those turnips in it!
Place the duck breast side up in the pan and begin to roast in the oven again.
While that is all happening prep all the needed ingredients for the sauce and place in the fridge. It is key to have the sauce ingredients quickly as it is pretty heat sensitive.
When the thermometer reads 160 degrees inside then it is time to crank up the heat. This takes about an hour to reach with a 5 pound bird. Crank the oven to 425 degrees, until the temp reads 170, or 10-15 minutes. This will final crisp everything.
Take the duck out of the oven at 170 and place on a huge butchers block at the table if you have it. Take out the duck and place on the board. Unwrap the slow roasted garlic and have with bread. In the pan mix the fat over the roasted veggies and put the veggies to the side of the duck on the board.
The duck must rest for 10-15 minutes! Don’t cheat. Also use this time to make the sauce.
Look this one is a bit tricky so be careful here but fast.
Add the vinegar to a saucier pan over medium heat until it bubbles. Then lower the heat and add in the basil, tarragon, and pepper. Reduce just a bit and incorporate all flavors in. Filter the liquid into a bowl and let cool for about 2 minutes.
Quickly rinse the sacier with water and put it on the burner over a burner or heat tamper plate. This will keep the pan warm but not too hot.
During that two minutes mix up the yolks with a whisk. Now in the bowl which is still hot you want to fortify it with the yolks. Bit the whisk into the yolks and a little bit should stay with it. Put this little bit into the hot sauce bowl and integrate whisking briskly. Repeat until all yolks are incorporated about 7-12 times.
Whisk in the tomato paste until integrated. Return to saucier pan over the tamper plate.
Stir in the cream slowly at a very thin stream while whisking briskly. The sauce should be warm to hot still if you worked fast.
Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
Bring to a very low simmer and whisk in the butter one slice at a time emulsifying and integrating.
Move to warm container and serve.
Carve the duck, serve with veggies, and give a little sauce. Being a more acid based sauce it is super savory and you don’t need a ton.