- An hour prior to cooking, remove the giblets from the duck, rinse the bird inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels. Refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into finger-thick slices, dropping them into cold water as you go.
- Cut the pancetta into cubes, put it into a large roasting tin with a tablespoon of oil. Warm it over a low heat, letting the pancetta flavour the oil, but without it colouring. Introduce the slices of potato, shaken dry, into the fat and let them cook slowly.
- Peel and cut onions in half, and then into about six pieces. Add these to the potatoes along with the thyme leaves stripped from their stems. Turn everything over gently as it cooks, letting the potatoes and onions colour very slightly. Season with salt and black pepper then remove from the heat.
- Prick the skin of the duck all over with a fork, then season it inside and out with salt. Lay the duck on top of the potatoes then put it in the oven and roast for 1 – 1½ hours, until the potatoes are soft and both they and the duck are golden.
- From time to time, push the spuds, particularly those that are browning too quickly to one side, and spoon any cooking juices over any that appear dry.
- During the cooking, carefully tip off most of the fat that is pouring out of the duck and that has not been absorbed by the potatoes. (The fat that you have poured from the duck as it cooks shouldn’t go to waste – it is one of the most delicious of all cooking mediums. Put it in the fridge to set, then use it for roasting potatoes)
- Test to see that the duck is done. There should be no sign of blood in the juices and the skin should be crisp and singing. Remove the potatoes to a warm serving dish.
- Turn the oven up to 220C. Put the duck back in the oven again and let it crisp up for 5 minutes or so. Then remove the duck to a warm dish.
- Pour the Marsala into the roasting tin and place it over a moderately high heat (you don’t want it to boil away), scraping at any stuck bits in the pan allowing any pan stickings and sediment to dissolve into the gravy.
- While the sauce is bubbling, carve the duck and serve it with the potatoes. Check the pan juices for seasoning – they may need a little salt – then spoon over the duck.
If you are roasting two ducks, you will need a very large roasting tin and twice the number of potatoes, three onions, but the same amount of thyme. You will also need to increase the roasting time by about 10 minutes, and add an extra half a glass of Marsala to the gravy.
Delicious served with a Watercress and Orange salad