A good dinner party dish and very easy to cook and serve, especially if you buy duck quarters, which won't need and final carving.
Don't make the mistake of pouring the sauce over the crisp skin and spoiling this aspect of the dish.
The Calvados makes a worthwhile improvement to the final flavour, if it's a special occasion.
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For 4 helpings:
1 large Aylesbury-type or Barbary free-range Duck - the former will give larger helpings or 4 Duck quarter pieces
1 medium Onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium clove of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon (5ml) Flour
Season the duck or pieces all over with salt and pepper.
Wrap it (or the pieces) fairly loosely, but securely, in a double layer of tin foil.
Steam for 2 hours, or 1 hour for pieces, then remove and allow to cool until it can be handled.
Carefully unwrap the package, a remove the fat and juices - set these aside, if possible in a glass jug, so you see the difference between the fat, which will rise, and the juices which will sink.
If using a whole duck, split it down the centre of its breast bone and half it, when it's cool enough to handle. Carefully remove all the rib bones - (keep these for making stock, for a future occasion if you wish).
You will then be left with very meaty pieces with just the leg and wing bones remaining. If using duck pieces, they can be left as they are.
In a wide frying pan add 2 tablespoons (30ml) of the duck fat and heat it over a low flame. Add the chopped onions and sweat them until they are translucent but not brown, add the chopped garlic - fry for a further minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour, making a smooth mixture with no lumps.
Add a little of the cider blending it in. Then return the pan to a low heat, adding the cider bit by bit, stirring as you go. Increase the heat to medium until the sauce starts to bubble. Simmer it in this way, until it has reduced by half and started to thicken.
While the sauce is gently simmering separate the fat from the duck juices. The fat can be kept in the fridge for frying purposes at another time (although you will need a little more for this dish), but add the juices to the cider sauce. Add the dried thyme, plus a little salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Add the cream and the Calvados if using, stir all together and continue to simmer.
Put a 1 tablespoon (15ml) of the duck fat into another frying pan and frying the apple pieces until they are brown, add them to the bubbling sauce.
You can prepare the dish ahead of time up to this point, if you wish.
When ready to serve, either grill the duck pieces under the grill (skin side up) until they have nicely-browned and the skin crisps, or fry them skin-side-down until the same object have been achieved.
Check the sauce for seasoning, the serve with the sauce separate, so as to preserve the crispness of the duck skin.