Anatra alla Puccini
Giacomo Puccini was born in Torre del Lago, about half an hour from Lucca. Though he’s revered as a composer, what I liked best about him when I was growing up was the fact that he was a Don Juan, a gourmet, and a great duck hunter. According to locals, Puccini did his most musical work in waders. That way, if he spotted ducks on Lake Torre when looking out his window, the composer would grab his rifle, run outside, and shoot dinner. This recipe was inspired by Puccini. It’s simple, but flavorful.
1 (5 ½-6-pound) duck
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 apple, quartered and seeded
1 orange, peeled and quartered
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
⅓ cup red wine
1 medium red onion, cut into eighths
1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup apple juice
1 cup orange juice
Trim any excess fat from the duck and soak it in cold water for 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pat the bird dry and prick the skin all over with a fork. Rub the cavity and the outer flesh with salt and pepper. Stuff the duck with the apple, orange, rosemary, and garlic. Place the duck on a roasting rack in a shallow pan and roast for 20 minutes. Splash the duck with the red wine and cook for another 15 minutes.
Drain the fat that has collected in the roasting pan. Add the chopped onion, the celery, and carrot to the roasting pan. Return the duck to the oven for 30 minutes, turn it, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, basting it once on each side.
Remove the onion, celery, and carrot and reserve. Raise the heat to 500 degrees F and roast the duck for 15 minutes more on each side. Remove the orange, apple, rosemary, and garlic from the bird’s cavity and let the duck rest for 10 minutes. Cut it into quarters, removing the backbone, and keep warm while you finish the sauce.
Skim the fat from the pan juices. Place the pan juices, orange quarters, apple quarters, and onion, celery, carrots, apple juice, orange juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor and puree. Spoon some of the sauce onto each dinner plate and place a piece of duck on top. Serve at once.