This recipe for duck makes for a very tender bird, with stacks of flavor. The apple and sage compliment the richness of duck well, while the gravy is just simply transcendental. You'll be licking your chin eating this one! :)
Melt the butter in a saucepan. When the foaming subsides, add the chopped onion. Saute on a gentle heat for around 10 minutes. Cook until translucent, avoid browning.
Take pan off heat and add all remaining ingredients.
Mix well with your hands to incorporate the egg. If the mixture seems a little too dry, add a touch of water. If too moist, add some more breadcrumbs. It should hold its shape easily.
Cut neck off duckling, and put aside for future use in gravy (below).
Put the stuffing inside the cavity of the duck. Close up the flaps of the cavity, securing them with toothpicks.
Cover the duck with melted butter, and season generously with salt and pepper.
Place the duck breast-side down (to make all the juices run into the breast, making for a more succulent final result) on a rack. Then place rack & duck in a roasting tray.
Add a little water to the bottom of the roasting tray to prevent burning.
Place tray in oven. Cook at 220°C for 15 minutes.
After the 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 180C, and cook for a further 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes, turn duck breast-side up and continue cooking for another 60-70 minutes (still on 180°C), checking on occasion that it does not burn/is not browning too much.
Note: While duck is cooking, make your gravy and apple sauce.
If duck is getting too brown/dark, reduce heat to 160°C, or cover the extremities of the duck with aluminum foil.
At the end of the cooking time, remove duck from oven. Place in a warm spot (perhaps atop an unused part of the stove) and cover with aluminum foil until serving time.
Chop neck from (above) duckling into pieces with a meat cleaver.
Put the pieces of neck and oil in a saucepan over the heat and allow some of the duck fat to render.
Add roughly chopped vegetables, herbs, bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt and fry for 20 minutes on medium heat, stirring regularly.
After the vegetables and duck neck have achieved a good brown color, add enough water (or stock) to barely cover the contents of pot.
Bring slowly to the boil, skimming any scum (bubbly impurities that gather at the surface) that appears.
When gravy has come to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer, and continue to skim scum from time to time. Keep on gentle simmer for as long as possible for the best flavor, adding a touch more water or stock from time to time if needed.
When the duck (above) gets close to being cooked, strain the gravy through a fine sieve to remove the vegetables, herbs, etc. Push down hard using the back of a spoon so as to extract as much juice as possible. Discard vegetables (or feed to your chickens/compost heap!).
In a clean pan, bring the strained gravy to the boil, stirring occasionally.
When gravy has reduced by a third, thicken with cornflour dissolved first in a small amount of cold water (3-4 tablespoons). Make sure to quickly stir gravy once cornflour is added to ensure good dispersion of cornflour & smooth gravy consistency.
Season the gravy with salt and pepper according to your personal tastes.
You could also add some of the pan juices from the roast duck once it has finished cooking - just stir in well.
In spaces where duck and gravy are cooking & able to be left alone for a bit, prepare apple sauce.
Peel and core the apples. Roughly chop them.
Place apples in saucepan with all other ingredients (except lemon juice).
Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking until the apples collapse (should take around 30 minutes). Stir frequently to prevent burning/sticking.
When cooking has finished, take off heat and add lemon juice. Stir.
Place gravy in a sauce boat.
Place apple sauce in a bowl/boat.
Carve the duck.
This dish is excellent when served with additional accompaniments like roasted new potatoes, pumpkin, minted peas, blanched green beans, honeyed carrots, etc.