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Byline: Sylvia Rector
Once a rare bird in all but the most elite restaurants, duckling now appears regularly on menus of all kinds, from trendy bistros to more middle-of-the-road establishments.
Chefs love its versatility, gourmet cachet and robust flavor. But few of the rest of us have any experience preparing it.
As a result, duck seldom crosses the road from the restaurant to the home kitchen _ a characteristic that makes it all the more appealing as the centerpiece of a holiday dinner.
Duckling sounds just exotic enough to make the meal memorable. And as a dark meat, it pairs beautifully with other rich, seasonal and assertive flavors, from cranberries and sweet spices to port wine and wild mushrooms.
"Fruit and game are a natural marriage, but the beauty of duck is that it has enough character and flavor that you can approach it from many perspectives," says Clark Raines, corporate chef for Maple Leaf Farms of Milford, Ind., the nation's largest duckling producer.
"It goes with all kinds of Asian flavors; it will stand up to Indonesian spices; it's great with curries. It has much more flavor and intensity than chicken and turkey."