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Duck with Cranberries and Wine

This recipe is from Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie (Clarkson Potter 2005) by Kathleen Curtin and Sandy Oliver. "It is the sort of dish," they write, "that would have occupied a place of honor on a fine feast table in 1621." They offer both original and modern versions.

Serves 4 to 6

1615 Recipe

To Boil A wilde Duck Trusse and parboyle it, and then halfe roast it, then carve it and save the gravey: take store of Onyons, Parsley, sliced Ginger, and Pepper: put the gravey into a Pipkin with washt currins, large Mace, Barberryes, a quart of Claret Wine: let all boyle well together, scumme it cleane, put in Butter and Sugar. -- John Murrell, The Newe Booke of Cookery, 1615

Modern Version

For the duck:

1 duck (4 to 5 pounds)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

10 black peppercorns

1 medium onion, quartered

Handful of parsley leaves and stalks

3 medium onions, halved vertically, then thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

2 cups red wine

1/3 cup parsley leaves, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup dried currants or roughly chopped raisins

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/4 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into four pieces

Rinse the duck inside and out and rinse any giblets included. Place the duck and giblets (except the liver, which can be reserved for another use) in a pot large enough to accommodate them, along with 2 teaspoons of the salt, the peppercorns, the onion quarters and parsley leaves and stalks. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over high heat.

Reduce the heat so that the broth stays at a very low simmer. Skim off the froth, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

After the duck has cooked for 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange the sliced onions in a 13-inch-by-9-inch roasting pan. Carefully remove the duck from the broth and reserve the broth. Season the duck inside and out with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the ground pepper, then place the duck on top of the onions. Roast the duck for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, place the duck on a carving board and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

While the duck is resting, make the sauce.

Strain 1 cup of the reserved broth and place in a saucepan along with the onions from the roasting pan, the wine, parsley, ginger, currants and mace. Boil over medium-high heat until the mixture is reduced by two-thirds and has a syrupy consistency.

When the duck has rested for at least 10 minutes, carve it into serving pieces. Place the meat on a heated serving platter and cover loosely with foil.

Add any juices given off during carving to the sauce and stir in the cranberries and sugar. Simmer for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Swirl in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is silky.

Serve the duck immediately, accompanied by the sauce.

Note: If you simmer the leftover defatted duck broth until it is reduced to one quarter of its original volume, it makes a very useful stock. Store in the freezer until needed.

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