Spatchcocked Duck for the New Year

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Our resident chef (and organizational expert) has offered many fast and simple recipes over the past couple of years. This, dear readers, is not one of those. So, as Ogden Nash warned us: Duck!


Here we are again, I’m Celia Wakefield, here with my daughter, Olivia, to spatchcock and roast a duck for you. But before I begin, I send my grateful thanks to Julia, to Debs, Hallie, Hank, Jenn, Lucy and Rhys for giving me this chance to share something I love doing and with which I have so much fun. Along with my thanks to everyone for such positive feedback over the year I wish you all the best for 2022. Along with my constant prayer for acceptance and peace throughout the world, a strong healthcare system and something, some super something that will allow everyone to restart living again without fear.


In the meantime I hope everyone had a very Merry or Happy Christmas with family if possible, or at least a book or two under the tree. There were four books under the tree for me. No recipe books but Ruth Reichland Tony Bourdain were my foodie choices this year.


The large red and green stocking is lying on my pile of book loot.    Christmas was wonderful with Olivia and Badger Dude (19, at Uni Wisconson) and gym guy (17, Junior in High School.) I had planned to keep the food simple and not stress. So long as it arrives in large enough quantities the boys are happy. I got a ham from Harringtons in Vermont and Olivia decided that she was chef and I would take it easy. We decided that the duck that I had also purchased, could wait in the name of simplicity. Ham with my dahl, a big pan of roasted veggies, a side of asparagus, and gluten free biscuits baked by Olivia, which were delicious. So delicious that being polite I took one first time through and went back to find an empty bowl. Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone but the younger members looked very well fed. It all went down very well helped by plenty of champagne. As you can see in this photo, we stayed with champagne when it came time to roast the duck.


On to New Years Eve; we will not be partying - still, delicious nibbles always go down well. I will have a cooked duck to dress up for that date. I remember doing a chicken on JRW a while ago but ducks are built a little different and I love to try things out. Having assembled my sharp knives and the ingredients Olivia and I got to work as Julia was unable to join us on this. (ed. note: My car battery died)


I have never been a "crowds in Times Square" kind of person, but I do have memories of awesome NYE parties in my youth. There were lots of parties when I lived in Ghana at the University. Although I was only 16, I was always invited with my parents and so gained some needed social skills after the dreaded boarding school years. I have a clear memory of dancing the Eightsome reel with my father each New Years Eve. We have Scots blood and Father became fully Scot on NYE. Reels are so much fun to dance though I don’t think I have the stamina nowadays. Looking back my parents were about 40 years old. So young, as I look back from my late 70’s now.


But back to the duck. A little research on spatchcocked ducks found there was little helpful information. One delightful Quebecquois basically didn’t show any real techniques in her video but her idea of a bed of onions and cranberries which could then be morphed into a sauce was worth pursuing. Let’s start with a bed of onions and cranberries then.




1 Duck

1 large onion, cubed,

4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

1 12 oz. bag cranberries

1 large orange or 2 clementines

1 Tblsp grated nutmeg

1+ Tblsp 5 spice powder (cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise, white pepper)

Salt & Pepper

I Cup Marsala or white wine or port (I like Marsala as it is slightly sweeter



Heat the oven to 425 degrees


A roasting pan large round to take the duck comfortably. Lining it with foil will make it easier after cooking to separate duck fat - delicious for frying anything -, from the onion, cranberry and spice bed.


    Chop the onion into small cubes.                

    Smash, peel and roughly chop the garlic.

    Slice the orange or clementines into rounds

    Place the chopped onions and garlic in the roasting pan to make a bed and cover with cranberries.

    Place the rounds of citrus on top, then sprinkle with 5 Spice powder or use your own spices to approximate the 5 Spice mix and grate or sprinkle nutmeg on top.


   Spatchcock the duck. You need a long sharp knife and a pair of good poultry shears. (Or a cooperative butcher).

Turn the duck onto the breast. Feel the back bone and start cutting as close as you can on one side. Be ready to twist the connective tissues at the thigh bones and the wings. Wings can be harder than thighs, (I’m guessing they do more work).

Once you have cut along both sides, remove the back bone and keep for stock, then turn the duck over, place both hands on the breast area and lean in. You should hear a crack.

Clean out an extraneous tissue etc left inside.


    Place the spatchcocked duck on the bed of onions and cranberries.

    Prick the sides with a fork being careful to go through the skin but not through the meat.

    Put the pan into 425degree oven for 20 minutes.

    Then turn the oven down to 350degrees, add the cup of Marsala to the roasting pan but do not pour over the duck and continue to cook until a reading of 165degrees is read on the thigh and breast.


Here is the roast duck in all its glory, after it has rested on the side under a foil tent for 15 minutes.  Once the pan is cool enough drain the onion cranberry mix through a sieve into a bowl and place in the fridge to separate into fat and stock. The duck fat is delicious for frying potatoes etc. The stock will enhance any gravy, soup or sauce. The onion cranberry mixture can be blended with some seasonings and stock to make a tasty sauce. Just check as it may need a little sweetening.


What did I do with the duck? Well I was tempted to sink my teeth into it there and then. But Olivia was making a mushroom risotto for dinner so I removed and chopped up one of the breasts along with a leg to add to the risotto which I wish I could have shared it with you all. Isn’t it lovely to see ones child or children excel at a skill one enjoys so much oneself?


And the leftovers? I shall cook a mushroom/onion/garlic/wine combo, slice the duck breast thinly, and sauce it to serve over rice or noodles. Bon Appetit.

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