Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Writing Lab: It's Not Christmas without Our Duck

Christmas dinner wasn't a big deal in my home growing up, but it has become an extremely big deal to Seth and me since we've been together. Lots of different dishes have taken center stage over the years and they've all been delicious, but our favorite is definitely roast duck.

Although we absolutely love turkey, we're just not ready for another one so soon after Thanksgiving. We also love ham, but that just seems so much better suited to New Year's dinner, as it's considered good luck to eat pork as your main protein. Pheasants and geese can be expensive and hard to find. Chicken just doesn't seem special enough for Christmas dinner, as we eat chicken frequently throughout the year.

Where all of those other things just aren't quite the right fit, duck is perfect. It roasts long enough to make the entire house smell like Christmas. It's fancy enough to feel like a nice splurge and it generates just enough meat to feed the both of us. There's usually a bit of leftover duck -- enough to make the homemade duck chili Seth likes or a couple of wraps for lunch -- but not so much that we're still eating our way through it by the time New Year's rolls around and we want to make a ham or something.

So, yes. The holidays are not complete without our roasted duck. We knew after the first year we had it that it was going to be our new go-to Christmas meal. Then the next year, we waited to long to buy ours and we weren't able to get one. It just wasn't the same, so we've gone to great lengths to make sure we grab our duck the second they appear in the stores. I'm happy to report that we already have one patiently waiting in the freezer for its turn in the spotlight.

We stuff our bird full of citrus fruits, apples, onions, and herbs -- whatever we happen to have around at the time. Then I make a wonderful rich gravy to go with it. The sides we serve it with vary from year to year. Some years we go very traditional with mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. Other years, we prefer to be more adventurous.

One year, I was going to do a mandarin-style duck with all Chinese sides (kind of an homage to A Christmas Story), but I don't think I ever quite got around to that. This year, I think we'll be going with Southern staples like baked macaroni and cheese, greens, and possibly biscuits. That is what I really love about duck. It's not just something delicious that feels worthy of being the centerpiece of a Christmas table. It's incredibly flexible as well. It can be anything and goes well with so many different flavor profiles.