In the mood for duck? Fire up the grill: North Fork Chef

Long Island duck, spatchcocked and fresh off the grill. (Credit: John Ross)

I have cooked many ducks in my long career. They were a signature item at Ross’ Restaurant in Southold for many years, helping to define the cuisine of the North Fork. Duck is not only a great part of our Long Island heritage, it is also delicious when cooked properly. Finally, duck is a great complement to good red wine, especially the merlots and cabernet francs of the North Fork.

And yet many people avoid cooking duck at home because it is fatty, hard to deal with and difficult to get the skin crisp and the meat tender. The following recipe provides one solution: Butterfly the duck in the spatchcock fashion, braising over indirect heat on your outdoor grill. Your kitchen will not be a mess, the duck will cook evenly and the skin will be crisp.

The seafood tower begins a festive Labor Day meal and is mostly a job of creative assembly, and the peach-blueberry pie is one of the beautiful gifts of August on the North Fork.

The Duck
Purchase a whole Long Island duck of about 5 1/2 to 6 pounds. Remove the giblets and rinse the duck in cold water. Trim off the flap of skin around the neck, cut off the tail and remove the interior fat.

Place the duck on a cutting board breast side down. Using sharp poultry scissors or a stiff boning knife, cut along the side of the backbone through the cartilage and the thigh joint. Repeat on the other side of the backbone, removing it completely. Cut off the wing tips and spread the duck out flat, skin side up. Using your palms, press the duck flat on the cutting board. Score the skin in a crosshatch pattern with the tip of your knife.

Make a seasoning rub by combining 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. Rub this mixture on both sides of the duck and refrigerate.

Grilling the Duck
Build a charcoal fire and push the coals to both sides.

In a shallow roasting pan put 1 onion sliced into wedges, 1 orange cut into slices, 6 sprigs of thyme and 6 parsley stems. Lay the seasoned duck on top and place the pan on the grill. Add 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 cup orange juice and 1 cup chicken stock. Cover tightly with foil.

Place the lid on the grill and adjust the vents so the temperature is about 300 degrees. Let it cook for 2 hours, adding a little more chicken stock if necessary.

Remove the pan from the grill and discard the foil cover. Transfer the duck to a foil-lined sheet pan and place back on the grill.

Stir together 1/4 cup honey, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Brush this glaze on the duck, place the lid on the grill and open the vents to increase the heat. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until the skin becomes a deep mahogany.

If desired, place the duck skin side down on the hot grill for 3 minutes to give it a final crisp exterior. Remove the duck and let it rest before serving.

While the duck is browning, strain the contents of the roasting pan and let it settle.

Place 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan and cook at medium heat until it turns golden. Add 1/3 cup orange juice and 2 tablespoons wine vinegar. Let this solution boil into a syrup.

Skim the fat off of the strained liquid (there will be a lot) and add the liquid to the caramelized sugar mixture. Bring to a boil, dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water and add to the sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of triple sec or Grand Marnier and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve on the side with the duck.

Note: This recipe can be cooked in your kitchen oven with similar results.

The Seafood Tower
Purchase 12 oysters, 12 littleneck clams, 1 lobster, 8 ounces of king crab, 12 jumbo shrimp and 8 ounces each of smoked salmon and bluefish.

Boil the lobster for 15 minutes, remove, cool under cold water and remove the meat, saving the shells for garnish.

Boil the shrimp in the same water until just opaque, about 4 minutes. Remove, cool, and peel and de-vein.

Open the oysters and clams and refrigerate.

Cut the crab into pieces and cut the smoked fish into bite-size pieces.

Arrange the shellfish on a tower for service. I used a makeshift tower assembled from a lazy Susan plus two cake plates. Garnish with lemons, parsley, cocktail sauce and horseradish sauce.

Peach-Blueberry Pie
For the crust, combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cut in 2/3 cup cold shortening with a pastry blender to resemble coarse meal. Stir in 1/2 cup ice water to make a dough.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead into 2 round discs. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate.

Combine 5 cups sliced peaches with 1/2 pint of blueberries. Stir in the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Whisk together 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons instant tapioca and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add this to the peaches and let rest while rolling out the pastry.

Roll out one of the pastry discs and place in a 9-inch pie pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the peach mixture into the pie pan and roll out the top crust. Cut 2 tablespoons cold butter into thin slices and place on top of the peaches.

Make an egg wash by stirring 1 tablespoon water into 1 beaten egg. Brush the edge of the pie with the wash and seal the top crust in place. Cut holes in the crust to release steam and brush the crust with the egg wash.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Note: This festive meal will serve up to six people. Wild rice and green beans make a good accompaniment for the duck.

John Ross