Forget the Turkey: You Should Roast a Thanksgiving Duck

Switch up the holiday routine with a simple roast duck recipe from Chef Mitsunobu Nagae

November 15, 2022 6:32 am
l'abeille's roast duck with caramelized honey-coriander glaze, roast turnips and poached nectarine
We promise you won’t miss the turkey.
Nicole Franzen

There’s nothing wrong with eating a turkey on Thanksgiving. With the right marinade, brine, smoker or deep fryer, the classic November bird can be quite delicious. But more often than not, turkey is an underwhelming protein. It can be dry and a little bland, and if you’re not hosting a large party for the meal, too many leftovers result in palate fatigue for the rest of the week. Which is exactly why you should roast a Thanksgiving duck this year.

Duck is succulent and flavorful, and it will look damn impressive to family and friends if you want to flaunt your culinary prowess. If you’re having a larger celebration, it’s a great complement to other game meats or even a roast chicken. Not to mention, duck is simpler to prepare than you may think. “It can be easier to cook for a novice home chef, as the higher fat content means that it won’t dry out as quickly as turkey,” says Mitsunobu Nagae, executive chef and owner of l’abeille

Duck is one of the star dishes at l’abeille, a warm and elegant French restaurant in NYC’s Tribeca neighborhood. Nagae is a master of French cuisine. He graduated top of his class at Tsuji Culinary Institute in Lyon and worked at the three Michelin-starred Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon in Tokyo, as well as Michelin-starred e.t.c. in Paris and L’atelier Joel Robuchon in New York. L’abeille is his first venture as chef and owner, and the restaurant received a Michelin star this fall after being open for less than a year. The restaurant offers a six-course tasting menu, but diners can also opt to order a la carte. Nagae’s roasted duck, which is served with a coriander-honey glaze, is available on both menus.

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If the prospect of roasting a whole duck seems intimidating, it’s actually quite simple with a good recipe and a few expert tips. And as with any delicious poultry dish, the secret to success lies in the skin. “Getting a crispy skin is very important to make a good duck dish,” Nagae says. “Air dry the duck for at least 24 hours — or more if you have time — to get a crispy skin, and score the skin of the duck very well to expose more fat to ensure a crispier exterior.”

Switch up your Thanksgiving main with this delectable duck dish from Chef Nagae, which is perfect when served alongside the holiday’s classic sides and seasonal fall vegetables.

Roasted Duck with Coriander-Honey Glaze

Servings: Serves 4

  • 2 – 2.5 lb. whole Pekin (Long Island) duck, cleaned to crown and air dried for at least 24 hours
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 Tbsp. coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns, toasted and crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • ½ tsp. lime zest
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. gluten-free soy sauce (optional)
    1. Reduce the orange juice to ½ cup over low heat.

    2. In a separate pan, caramelize the honey over low heat. Stir constantly until the honey starts to form tiny bubbles at the sides of the pan. Continue cooking until the honey turns a deep amber color, being careful to not burn it. This should only take a few minutes.

    3. Add the coriander and black pepper to the caramelized honey and cook until fragrant.

    4. Add reduced orange juice, all citrus zests, turmeric, grated ginger and soy sauce, if using.

    5. Reduce the mixture to a thick syrup consistency, and then let the glaze cool to room temperature.

    6. Score the skin of the duck to expose more fat to ensure crispier skin when roasting. Pan-sear the duck on all sides until the skin reaches a golden brown color, approximately 10 minutes.

    7. Season the duck with a liberal amount of salt and roast at 350 F until the internal temperature reaches 145 F. In a convection oven, this should take about 20 minutes. In a regular oven, it could take more time, so if the bird isn’t done after 20 minutes, check on it often to avoid overcooking.

    8. Rest the duck for at least half of the total cooking time and preferably the same as the cooking time.

    9. With a brush, coat the skin of the duck with the glaze and put in the oven at 400 F for 2-5 minutes, depending on desired caramelization.

    10. Carve the duck, slice and serve.


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