The duck was dark and full of terrors. I leered at the 6-pound Lancaster specimen as it defrosted, contemplating the best way to attack. It was missing its organs, but still had its neck, a long, fleshy extension I’d unsuccessfully tried to hack through.
As a fairly knowledgeable home cook, I’ve roasted whole birds before, but never a duck, with its thick blanket of fat, bulbous legs and inconvenient neck. I blame A Feast of Ice and Fire (May 29, Bantam), the official companion cookbook to HBO’s Emmy-winning series Game of Thrones (based on George R. R. Martin’s series of vivid, intricate, genre-bending fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire). The chapter of recipes from Dorne, the blistering southern region of Martin’s fictional realm of Westeros, included a duck dish that looked too good not to try.
I stuffed the bird with lemons and glazed it with a reduction of lemon, olive oil, honey, chili powder and pepper before roasting it in the oven, soon dizzy with the heady aroma that filled my kitchen. I swear I had smelled it before, as well as countless other evocative food perfumes, while reading Martin’s books; the juicy, tantric detail he uses in describing what his characters are eating is a hallmark of the series. From a royal wedding feast in King’s Landing to an austere breakfast on the Wall, it’s hard not to crave what the kings, queens, outlaws and exiles are craving. (Except perhaps honeyed dormice and unborn puppies, delicacies in the slaver cities to the east across the Narrow Sea.) Amateur chefs and superfans Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer began writing recipes for dishes mentioned in the Ice and Fire books on their blog, Inn at the Crossroads. With Martin’s blessing, A Feast of Ice and Fire was born shortly thereafter.
Instead of organizing this cookbook by course or ingredient, Monroe-Cassel and Lehrer split it up into regions: the Wall, the North, the South, King’s Landing, Dorne and “Across the Narrow Sea.” The writing is plain and the photography sedate, but the recipes are straightforward and reliable. After two hours in the oven, the duck emerged caramelized and crispy, its flesh tangy and sweet from the lemon-honey glaze it absorbed during cooking.
I was even more impressed with the recipe for apple-and-date-flecked oat bread; I’m no baker, but these twin loaves came out beautifully. The first didn’t make it through the night, the second through the following morning. Guess I’ll just have to bake up a few extra. No sense in not being prepared: Winter is coming, after all.