Persian flavors sing in this tangy sweet-tart savory Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za'atar Roasted Duck. Duck is first simmered, then rubbed with za'atar spice paste, and roasted in a hot oven, while being glazed with a pomegranate orange honey sauce. It's a show-stopper on your holiday table!
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👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
'Tis the season... May it be a peace-filled and joyful one spent with those you hold most dear. My husband and I will be on our way to Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday for an intimate gathering with our son Nils, daughter-in-love Jamie, and grandson Cade. Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za'atar Roasted Duck will be the centerpiece of our Christmas table.
In years past, we've been blessed to have most, if not all, of our 4 sons (and their significant others) around the Christmas table. Roasting duck can present logistical issues for home cooks, as 1 duck really only serves 2 people.
Cooking for 8 to 12 people (a typical Christmas dinner) equals 4 to 6 ducks! My 30" range could not accommodate that number... hence I never have cooked duck for Christmas dinner.
Our smaller gathering this year provided the perfect opportunity to feature duck. 🙂 I am prepared with a Persian-style menu, and can't wait to get started! Keep an eye out for 2 more side dishes to you between now and then, beginning with this roasted duck, and followed by a Zereshk (Barberry) and Pistachio Pilaf, and a Spinach and Persimmon Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.
🍛 What Constitutes "Persian Food?"
This Persian-style roasted duck recipe - and the recipes that follow - are based on the Persian flavor profile: Saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, mint, thyme, oregano, pistachios, pomegranates, citrus, zereshk (barberries), etc.
My inspiration for Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za'atar Roasted Duck came to me in the international foods aisle at HEB in McAllen. I was looking for pomegranate molasses for a salad dressing recipe planned for Thanksgiving.
I have always had to "make" my own by simmering down a bottle of juice. Imagine my delight when I spotted it on the bottom shelf in the Persian section! I perused the rest of that section, and spotted a container of za'atar spice mix. I subsequently ended up playing around with wet and dry rubs, and then glazing during cooking to find the best combination.
I have been a fan of Food Network's Ina Garten for many years. Her basic cooking techniques are so solid. I knew I wanted to incorporate Persian flavors, but I had no experience roasting a duck.
I looked to Ina Garten for her basic roasted duck recipe. Her Roast Duck recipe prep method yielded a golden, crispy skin, and moist and flavorful duck.
I have used this combination on a small chicken cooked on the grill, cornish game hens roasted in my convection oven, and most recently, on the duck roasted in my oven which you see in the photo above.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- duck - You'll need 1 duck for every 2 people.
- za'atar - You can make homemade za'atar, find it in the international foods aisle at your local market, or order za'atar on Amazon.
- olive oil
- pomegranate molasses - You may or may not find pomegranate molasses at your local market in the international foods aisle. You can also make your own pomegranate molasses. It's easy!
What is Za'atar?
I'd venture to guess you may not be familiar with za'atar? Za'atar is a family of herbs, as well as a generic name for a spice mixture used throughout the Middle East. Though recipes will vary by region, it typically includes sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, sumac, and salt.
Check out this recipe for homemade za'atar. A commercially prepared za'atar (if you are fortunate enough to have a market with a variety of international foods) is a fine substitute for homemade.
Pomegranates and Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranates seem to be synonymous with Persian cooking... at least in the mind of this American cook. The brilliantly red fruit make an appearance in so many Persian dishes - including the popular and widely known fesenjan - but they are also an important cultural symbol. See Why Iranian Lifestyle can't be Without Pomegranate for more info...
The health benefits of pomegranates include (but are not limited to) an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals, low in calories, rich in fiber, and potent antioxidants. For more information see 12 Health Benefits of Pomegranates.
About the Duck
One Duck does not go a long way! Most "experts" agree that one 5-5 ½ pound duck serves 2-3 people... even with robust sides. So if you're feeding 4, you really need two ducks.
The cavity of the duck is quite large, and the bird is bony. You don't want to be short on roasted duck on Christmas Day!
Recommended internal temperatures can range from 145° to 180°. 😥 Duck is pretty forgiving, not drying out like chicken and turkey. We thought 160° made for a spectacular bird!
Is Duck Healthy?
While duck is considered "fatty," it is considered a healthy food. Most of the fat is healthy fat (similar to olive oil), but about ⅓ of it is saturated. The meat itself is not high in fat.
Duck is high in protein, B12, omega fatty acids, and more. As a special occasion food, I would not hesitate to include it in a healthy diet...
The duck goes into a hot oven, and is basted with a tangy, orange molasses pomegranate glaze. In 30 to 40 minutes, the duck should be golden, crispy, and cooked to an interior temperature of 160°.
- Simmer the duck(s) in broth, pat dry, air dry.
- Make the rub then rub it into the skin.
- Place the duck in preheated (hot) oven.
- Make the pomegranate glaze, then begin basting periodically.
- Roast until desired temperature is reached.
- Garnish with pomegranate arils, orange slices, and fresh herbs as desired.
I'm serving 4. How many ducks should I prepare? Given that a 5 pound duck feeds 2-3, you will need 2 ducks.
How much time should I allow start to finish? About 2 ½ before carving and serving.
As mentioned above, the internal temperature recommendation for duck is 145° to 180°. Duck is fairly forgiving; I cook until an internal temperature of 160°.
For help with carving those beautiful birds: How to Carve a Whole Duck.
What can I do with leftovers? I don't think I've ever had any substantial leftovers, but I don't like to waste even the carcass. I have put the duck carcass(es) in a pot covered with water, and added bay, rosemary, onion, carrots, celery to make a good stock. I pick off any meat, strain the stock, and add wild rice, mushrooms, carrots, etc. It's delicious!
🧂 Useful Stuff
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In planning my Christmas menu, and putting these recipes and posts together, keep in mind that I am not attempting to recreate an authentic Persian dish. Rather, I am using Persian flavors to bring you a new "twist" on a traditional holiday favorite.
I hope that you will consider this Persian-style roasted duck recipe for your own holiday menu this year... and as you plan take time to enjoy the beauty of the season. Merry Christmas!