Many years ago, Mardee Haidin Regan was preparing a special dinner featuring Elizabeth Schneider's wonderful Aromatic Duck, so rich and tasty that one duck serves three or four people. The recipe involves seasoning the duck with great flavors for about a day and then drying the skin so that it's as beautiful as that of the finest Peking duck in Chinatown. The problem occurred when Regan's duck was still damp after its requisite drying time in the refrigerator. She called Elizabeth. Her response was, "Mardee, use a hair dryerwhatever it takes to get it dry." God bless her and forgive Regan, she always uses the hair dryer nowfor this duck and for other roasted birds.Plus: More Chicken Recipes and Tips
Two 5-pound Long Island ducks
1 1/2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
12 whole cloves
4 bay leaves
3 juniper berries
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons good gin or brandy
2 garlic cloves
How to Make It
Rinse the ducks inside and out. Pull off any loose clumps of fat. Pat the ducks dry, inside and out.
In a spice mill, grind the peppercorns with the cloves, bay leaves, juniper berries, salt and thyme until very fine. Pour into a small bowl and stir in the brown sugar and gin.
Rub the spice mixture all over the inside and outside of each duck. Put a garlic clove in each cavity, then put each duck in a snug-fitting sturdy plastic bad and close securely. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours; whenever you open the refrigerator, press the bags to work the spices into the skin.
Remove the ducks from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the ducks from the bags and pat any moist places with a paper towel. Set a V-shaped roasting rack or a vertical roasting rack in each of 2 small roasting pans. Get out your hair dryer (the higher the wattage, the better), wipe it clean and using very high heat, begin to dry the ducks; you can stick the nozzle right into the cavities. The drying time will vary but shouldn't be more than 10 to 15 minutes per duck. Be sure to dry the ducks on all sides, inside and out. Take special care to dry and creased areas.
Transfer the ducks to the racks, breasts up and roast them for 30 minutes. Reverse the pans front to back and roast for 30 minutes more.
Increase the oven temperature to 400°. Prick any fatty parts of the duck skin with a needle, but do not pierce the flesh. If using V-shaped racks, turn the ducks over; you can do this with tongs or by grabbing the hot ducks with a kitchen towel and flipping them. Roast for 30 minutes, then reverse the pans front to back and roast for 15 to 30 minutes longer, or until the ducks are golden brown and most of the fat has melted away. Remove from the oven and let cool for 1 to 3 hours.
Using poultry shears or a heavy cleaver, cut each duck into 12 to 14 serving pieces, taking care that each piece has its own covering of the delicious browned skin. Serve at room temperature.
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