Citrus & Spice Thanksgiving Duck

Yes, turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving staple, but give this smaller, more succulent fowl a try.

October 3, 2017
Citrus & Spice Thanksgiving Duck
Anna Williams

Adapted from Zac Posen's new cookbook, Cooking with Zac: Recipes From Rustic to Refined

There is something so expected about making a turkey for Thanksgiving... which is why I choose to cook both a turkey and a duck! Duck is tender and flavorful, and just generally more succulent than a turkey. It is a smaller fowl, but you can always roast two to supplement if you decide to forgo the turkey.


More: 10 Ways to Have a Healthier Thanksgiving

The key to keeping the meat moist is to give the duck an initial steam using a spiced tisane. After steaming, I poke holes in the skin all over the surface of the duck and then score the skin and fat in a cross-hatch pattern (without cutting into the meat) to allow the fat to render off while simultaneously making the skin crackling-crisp. The glaze is based on a sweet Indonesian sauce called ketjap manis. It's aromatic, thick, and dark, kind of like an Indonesian ketchup. You can find it in the international aisle of most supermarkets, in Asian markets, and online.

Citrus & Spice Thanksgiving Duck
(Serves 6)


Steaming Tisane:

  • 6 tangerines or clementines, quartered

  • 2 large pieces (each about 5" long) fresh gingerroot, sliced into thin rounds

  • 8 allspice berries

  • 8 cardamom pods

  • 4 star anise pods

  • 2 cinnamon sticks


  • 1 Pekin (Long Island) duck (5 1/2 pounds), excess fat removed from the cavity and neck removed

  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled

  • 3 star anise pods

  • Peel from 2 lemons, any white pith on the peel removed, 1 lemon halved (save the other lemon for the glaze)

  • 1 piece (1" long) fresh gingerroot, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 10 kumquats, halved

  • 12 whole cloves

Hoisin Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce

  • 1/4 cup ketjap manis

  • 1/4 cup orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 2 Tablespoons honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the steaming tisane: Fill a large pot with 4 quarts (16 cups) of water. Add the tangerines, ginger, allspice, cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 30 minutes to infuse the water. Turn off the heat.


2. To make the duck: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Rinse the duck under cold water and pat the outside and inside dry. Add the garlic, star anise, lemon peel, ginger, thyme, salt, and pepper to the small bowl insert of a food processor. Process until the gar- lic is very finely puréed, then massage the rub into the cavity and over the skin of the duck. Squeeze the kumquats into the cavity of the duck and add them to the cavity, then repeat with one lemon half, squeezing the juice in and then adding the squeezed fruit to the cavity. Stick the sharp end of the cloves into the breast and legs, tuck the wings behind the backbone (just as you would to roast a chicken), and use twine or a piece of aluminum foil folded into a "rope" to tie the base of the legs together.

3. Set a roasting rack into a roasting pan (preferably a flat rack). Add enough of the steaming tisane to cover the pan, but don't let the liquid touch the bottom of the roasting rack. Place the duck on the rack breast side down, cover the roasting pan with a few sheets of foil, and roast the duck in the oven for 1 hour.

4. To make the glaze: While the duck roasts, whisk together the hoisin sauce, ketjap manis, orange juice, lemon juice, honey, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.

5. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and carefully peel the foil away from you (take care as you don't want the hot steam to billow up into your face). Fold up two bunches of paper towels and use them to flip the duck breast side up. Use a sharp knife to prick about a dozen holes just through the skin and fat (don't slice into the meat) all over the duck (especially in the joint where the leg connects to the body), then use the knife to score the breast, making slits through the skin and fat just down to the meat (don't slice through the meat) about 1/2" apart. Angle the knife in the opposite direction and repeat to get a cross-hatch pattern over each breast. Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.


6. Use a basting brush to coat the entire duck with the glaze. Return the roasting pan to the oven and roast the duck, glazing every 15 minutes, until the temperature in the thigh reaches 160°F, about 35 to 45 minutes longer.

7. Remove the duck from the oven and set a side for 10 minutes, then carefully tip it (so the wide cavity opening faces the roasting pan) over the roasting pan to drain off any juices from the cavity. Place the duck on a cutting board, breast side up, and carve. Pour the pan juices into a fat separator and remove as much fat as possible, then serve the pan sauce on the side.