Food and memory are indelibly linked. There are some dishes that we make every year that have become such a part of who we are that we couldn’t imagine ourselves without them. This is one of those recipes. It’s the roast, stuffed duck that Juliana’s father, Steve Arvai, made every year, traditionally around Christmas.
Steve emigrated to the United States in 1969 from Hungary, just as that country was enduring a crushing Communist rule that would last another 20 years. He made a life here and raised his children here, and one of the things that Steve was known for — besides his charming smile and quick witted humor — was his cooking. As the holidays are approaching, we thought it would be fun to share this recipe, which we enjoy just around now, as the weather cools suitably in the North Bay area and is suitable for any holiday gathering. The crispy skin, and the juicy dark duck meat, paired with a savory stuffing, and a sweet red cabbage slaw is pretty much my definition of culinary heaven: and it goes perfectly with our Merlot from the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.
Merlot, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
We buy our ducks from Sonoma County Poultry, a wonderful place that delivers to some of the best restaurants in the area. These ducks are wonderfully fresh, and we think they tend to be a bit larger and tastier than those you find frozen in traditional supermarkets. Information can be found here: http://www.libertyducks.com/about.html
Bon Appétit or as they say in Hungarian, Jó étvágyat!
Steve’s Legendary Stuffed Duck Recipe
(For 6-8 adults)
- 2 ducks cleaned (4-6 lbs. each) and trimmed, gizzards reserved, keep the necks.
- Dried apricots for roasting (optional)
- Chicken stock for roasting (optional)
- 2 small bags or one large bag (1lb.) croutons (Steve preferred garlic parmesan, but almost any stuffing mix will do)
- 1 qt. milk
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- 1 large bunch parsley
- 1 package white mushrooms
- ½ lb. ground chicken, preferably thighs
- Salt, pepper, and Vegeta for seasoning
- 1 raw egg
- Roasting twine
- Night before: salt and pepper the ducks and refrigerate overnight
- 1-2 hours before cooking time: remove ducks from refrigerator and bring to room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Soak croutons/stuffing mix in milk.
- Chop parsley, mushrooms, and hard-boiled eggs into small pieces.
- Mix with the crouton/milk mix and blend in the ground chicken. Season with salt, pepper and Vegeta.
- Stuff the ducks and recover with the flaps of fat, then tie them up with roasting twine.
- Put the dried apricots in the bottom of the pan with the duck necks.
- Roast one hour at 350° F covered with aluminum foil.
- Remove the foil and roast two more hours at 350° F, basting occasionally.
- Internal temperature should reach 165° F.
- Remove ducks from oven and let rest 20 minutes.
- Remove stuffing and serve independently.
- Quarter ducks, remove backbone, and serve with red cabbage slaw (recipe below), sweet potatoes, and roast brussels sprouts.
Reserve the fat: Throw away the apricots and necks. Reserve the duck fat for another cooking purpose.
Red Cabbage Slaw
- 1 head red cabbage
- ½ stick butter
- 2 Tbsp. chicken stock
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 2-3 tsp. caraway seeds
- Kosher salt and pepper to season
- Shred the red cabbage into long thin slices, removing the hard white parts from the center.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat; add the cabbage and the chicken stock.
- Season with Kosher salt, pepper, and caraway seeds, and mix in.
- Cover, turn heat down to medium and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and stir in the white vinegar. Return to heat for 5 minutes.