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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Amazing Five-Hour Duck

1 Peking (Long Island) duck, wing tips cut off (not necessary, but more elegant)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
Small handful of fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat oven to 300 degrees, and set rack on the middle level.

Remove the package of giblets from the duck; save the giblets and wingtips if you'd like. Rinse the duck with cold water, and dry it with paper towels. Remove any loose globs of yellow fat from the two cavities. Rub the large cavity of the duck with salt and pepper and garlic, and put thyme in it.

With a small sharp paring knife, make slits all over the duck, piercing the duck skin and fat but being careful not to pierce the flesh. The easiest way to do this is with the knife on the diagonal, not straight in.

Put the duck breast side up on a rack (a cake cooling rack is fine) set on a jelly roll pan, and put it in the oven. Every hour for 4 hours, take the pan out of the oven, pierce the duck all over again with a knife, and turn it over. Each time, pour off the fat. If you like, save the fat -- it's perfect for sauteing potatoes or greens another time. Store it in the refrigerator.

After 4 hours, increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Salt and pepper the duck skin, and cook for about an hour longer, until the skin is crisp and browned. Let the duck rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Instead of carving it in the usual way, try sectioning the duck with heavy kitchen shears; cut it in half along the backbone and then cut each half into 2 pieces. Or use a cleaver and hack it into small pieces, bones and all, to serve Chinese style. Serves 4.

"The Best American Recipes 1999," collected by Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin

Sunday, June 25, 2000

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