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Although canvasback ducks are rarely to be had these days, the Washingtons would surely have recognized this adaptation of a recipe by Elizabeth Raffald. Mushroom catchup, which is called for here, can be ordered online or found in specialty stores.

Washington Parke Custis, Martha Washington's grandson, described a visit to nearby Alexandria that occurred late in George Washington's life. While dining at Gadsby's City Hotel, the proprietor informed Washington "that there was good store of canvass-back ducks in the larder. 'Very good, sir,' he replied, 'give us some of them, with a chafing-dish, some hominy, and a bottle of good Madeira, and we shall not complain."


  • 1 domestic duck (4 1/2 pounds)
  • Water as needed
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 large fresh sage sprigs
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • All-purpose flour for sprinkling
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 2 tablespoons mushroom catchup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons brown flour
  • Onion sauce for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Set a rack in a medium roasting pan.

  2. Remove the gizzards (giblets) from the duck, and put them in a saucepan. Add enough water just to cover, and set aside. Rinse the duck thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels.

  3. Season the duck with salt and pepper, rubbing into the skin as well as in the cavity. Tuck the sage sprigs and onion into the cavity.

  4. Sprinkle the duck with flour, patting over the skin. Brush all over with the melted butter.

  5. Place the duck in the roasting pan. Put it in the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 350°F. Roast the duck for about 1 1/2 hours, pricking the skin every 20 minutes to drain the excess fat, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 180°F.

  6. Meanwhile, complete the sauce. Bring the gizzards (giblets) to a boil. Cover and simmer briskly for about 20 minutes, until they are cooked through. Remove and discard the gizzards. Return the broth to the heat, and stir in the mace, catchup, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Continue simmering about 5 minutes more on very low heat, until the flavors are well blended.

  7. When the duck is done, drain the juices into the roasting pan, transfer the duck to a deep serving platter, and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Skim as much fat off the juices as possible, and pour them into the simmering broth.

  8. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the Brown Flour, and stir until thickened. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more of the flour, if necessary.

  9. To serve, pour the sauce around the duck, and send to the table. Accompany with Onion Sauce in a separate gravy boat.