Aaron Kirk
Active Time
1 HR 15 MIN
Total Time
10 HR
Yield
Serves : 4

It’s not the sort of meal you make and serve with a casual shrug: Preparing a whole duck for dinner is an occasion—and a gesture of generosity and serious sentiment. Duck is my dad’s favorite thing to eat and something he rarely splurges on when dining out, so every summer I smoke one for him as his Father’s Day gift (and round out the evening with a couple of great bottles of Pinot Noir).

Before I started relying on my trusty PK Grill to fire up dinner multiple times a week, preparing duck at home was a daunting process. I fretted about splattering fat and overcooking and drying out the meat. When I made gumbo, I relied on my local Asian grocery for a roasted duck (something I still recommend in a pinch).

But grill-roasting a duck is as easy as a chicken (particularly when you use an instant-read thermometer to gauge doneness), and the deeply flavored results are as satisfying as anything you can get in a restaurant. Because the smoke provides its own seasoning, you don’t need to add much more to the equation. I usually season the bird with a warm, peppery mix of pink and black peppercorns and salt. Before trussing, I insert a shallot and fresh herbs in the cavity (feel free to add garlic or a quartered satsuma to the mix) to perfume the meat, and I coat the skin with a splash of Maggi Seasoning sauce (a trick to enhance the umami flavors).

Part of duck’s appeal, of course, is its flavorful fat. So, when I smoke duck over indirect heat I capture the rewards of that slow roast by cooking something else underneath. In this case, a cast-iron skillet of potatoes crisp and become tender under a steady baste of rendering duck fat. Afterwards, I balance the hearty meat-and-potatoes mix with a pile of peppery greens like frisée that have been lightly dressed with red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. The combination is both rustic and refined, and surprisingly time-efficient—a griller’s version of a one-dish wonder.

By the time I carve the gorgeously bronzed bird, my dad and I have certainly enjoyed a glass or two of that Pinot and a couple of hours together on lawn chairs in the driveway, trading memories and favorite stories from my childhood. In that way, my gesture is actually a gift to myself, because smoking a duck provides a hall pass to be still, to appreciate the pleasures of the moment, and to enjoy the wafting aromas of the meal to come.

How to Make It

Step 1    

To prepare the duck, remove any giblets, reserving neck for potatoes. Rinse duck under cold water, pat dry with paper towels, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick duck with a fork liberally over every surface. Let stand, uncovered, in refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.

Step 2    

Combine 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper, and pink peppercorns in a small bowl. Season inside and outside of duck liberally with the spice mixture. Insert shallot and thyme sprigs inside cavity. Truss the duck; rub outside of duck with Maggi Seasoning sauce to coat.

Step 3    

Place the potatoes in a large cast-iron skillet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and lightly season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4teaspoon black pepper. Place sage sprigs and duck neck in skillet with the potatoes.

Step 4    

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a layer of fine gray ash, add 2 cups mesquite wood chips. Carefully wipe the preheated grates clean, then carefully spray with cooking spray.

Step
Step 5    

When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke and temperature registers 300-325°F, use tongs to remove the cooking grate, and place the skillet of potatoes on the side with no coals. Replace the cooking grate, and place the duck, breast side up, directly on the grate over the skillet of potatoes. Close grill, vent the grill for smoking, and smoke until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breastreads 140°F, about 1 hour, turning duck and stirring potatoes once, adding coals or wood chips as needed to maintain a steady temperature between 300°F and 325°F. Transfer duck to a cutting board, and let rest for at least 20 minutes. Remove potatoes from the grill when tender; remove duck neck and sage, and discard or save for stock. Let potatoes cool slightly; cut in half, and toss with juices in skillet to coat.

Step 6    

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, remaining 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a large serving bowl. Add the frisée and warm potatoes; toss to combine. To serve, carve the duck into 6 to 8 pieces; tuck into salad.

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