This is an absolute belter of a dish and could make for a simpler Sunday roast for those whom excessive veg prep is a chore. The duck is slow roasted to crispy perfection over a pan of potatoes flavoured with garlic and rosemary, the gently rendering duck fat providing the necessary lubricant to deliver crisp edged flavoursome spuds. This cooking method will not deliver pink breast meat, it will be cooked through and falling from the bone - think Chinese shredded duck.
However the real star of the show is the Pedro Ximenez jus (or gravy in less poncey terms). Pedro Ximenez is a sticky sweet sultana scented sherry from Jerez in Spain. Temper this sweetness with vinegar and meat stock and you pretty much have the perfect duck sauce. I more or less devoured the whole duck alone, ripping crisp skin and butter soft fatty meat from bone, shoving it into the sauce and then my mouth like a mad man.
For 2 or maybe three people at a push:
1 Gressingham Duck
1 kg of potatoes (Maris Piper) peeled and cut into chunks
2 sprigs of rosemary
4 fat cloves of garlic, skin on
For the sauce:
250ml meat stock - beef, chicken or ham are all good, not lamb though
50ml Pedro Ximenez, maybe a little more to taste
100ml of good red wine
2 tbsp good red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 scant tsp arrowroot slaked in a little cold water
Heat you're oven to 220c. Spatchcock the duck by cutting out the backbone with a sturdy pair of scissors. Flatten the bird, season well and place straight on the bars of the oven rack with a suitable roasting tray placed below to catch the juices. The addition of a little water to the roasting tray stops the juices burning before the fat has properly rendered, the water will evaporate before you need to roast your spuds leaving only hot oil.
Roast the duck for 30 minutes then drop the oven temperature to 150c and cook for another hour and a half. Blanch the spuds, drain then chuff up the edges so they crisp well. Turn the oven back up to 200c and toss the spuds into the oven tray with the duck fat, the rosemary, the garlic and a good seasoning of Maldon salt. Roast for another 30 to 40 mins turning the spuds every so often until the edges are crisp.
While the spuds are roasting make the sauce. Boil the vinegar to almost nothing then chuck in the wine, stock and sugar and reduce by half. Add the sherry and simmer until the alcohol has burnt off - you will taste this as the harshness will disappear leaving only the flavour. You can add a little more sherry if you think it needs it. Add the arrow root and allow to thicken, pass through a sieve and keep warm.
Check your duck - the skin should be golden and crisp and the leg bones should feel loose, as if you could pull them from the bird leaving the meat behind. Serve up - the only accompaniment required is some good red wine and some steamed greens……..and maybe a bib.