My plan was to cook duck for New Year's Eve. It was our turn to host our friends Mark and Karen (and their three kids) from Woodland, with whom we have celebrated New Year's Eve with a feast for nearly 20 years. We've only missed being together a few New Year's Eves, when we were in Spain and once when I was having my wisdom teeth out and maybe one or two more.
Actually the duck was originally an impulse buy a few days before Christmas, and I thought vaguely of cooking it between Christmas and New Year's. Then my husband gave me a wonderful new cookbook for Christmas, Olives and Oranges: Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox, with a recipe for Honey-and-Chili-Roasted Duck with Fennel and Farro, which we thought would be perfect for New Year's Eve. So I went out to buy another duck and got the last one at the store (albeit a left0ver frozen one), so we'd have enough for all nine of us.
Then I got an email from Karen. They wanted to bring us a free-range turkey from Branigan's Turkey Farm in Woodland because they had a gift certificate they wanted to use. I explained about the ducks, and Karen said, "Let's cook it all!" so, with a vision of our table groaning with poultry, I agreed. Meanwhile, my husband decided to stop by Berkeley Bowl after work and pick up several pounds of fresh sole for lunch on New Year's Day, before the duck. By the time he brought it home I was feeling slightly overwhelmed and didn't think his joke about cooking a tur-duck-duck was very funny. But it all worked out beautifully.
I decided not to try to cook both ducks and the turkey, given my limited oven space. I froze the duck I had bought fresh and pushed the duck I had already begun to defrost to the back of the fridge. Mark and Karen arrived with an 18-pound turkey on ice in the ice chest and large box of goodness from their garden (bunches of thyme and sage, winter greens and tender lettuces, butternut squashes and oranges). We enjoyed a lunch of baked sole, pasta with walnut and garlic, sauce and salad from their lettuces. After lunch, Karen and I set to unpacking the turkey and massaging it with butter and herbs for its trip into the oven. She had the great idea of roasting it breast down so we could go to the beach for a walk and not hang around basting it every 20 minutes. So we took their 2-year-old to the beach and looked at the surfers.
The turkey turned out moist and golden (at least the back--I didn't see the breast before my husband carved it) and delicious. I may cook my turkeys upside down from now on. (I was very impressed with the quality of the Branigan's bird. When we unpacked it, it smelled fresh and it had a tremendous amount of meat on it. Their website says the turkeys are available year-round at their plant in Woodland and in November and December at certain stores in the Bay Area.) I made the farro cooked in orange juice and fennel from my duck recipe. The 2-year-old had a grand time juicing the oranges in our orange juice squeezer. We steamed up the winter greens to have along side and my husband made a mahogany gravy. I was so caught up in enjoying our feast that I didn't take a single picture of it! Right after dinner we cut off a huge pile of meat and popped the carcass into our biggest stock pot to make turkey soup. We sent Mark and Karen off with a container of it on New Year's Day, after a dim sum lunch at Yank Sing.
I finally made the duck tonight, and it was succulent. We poured the pan juices over polenta and polished off the winter greens. I've got the duck carcass bubbling in the stock pot for some duck soup right now. It was satisfying to finally cook that duck.