Duck Dishes

Julia Child’s Deboned Duck Baked in Pastry

One of my blogger friends once reminded me that blogging should be about sharing, not showing off. I try to follow her advice, but I’m afraid that this post might be edging over a little into showing off. I recently saw the film Julie and Julia again on TV – I really like this movie; perhaps it’s because of the nostalgia created by the movie sets of an old Paris, perhaps because it has Meryl Streep in it.

Anyway, I noticed that the last dish that ‘Julie’ had to make was a fully boned duck, stuffed and baked in a fancy pastry crust – Pâté de Canard en Croûte. This dish was a major achievement for her – not only it was the last of the 365 dishes she had to create over the year, but she had to overcome the hurdle of preparing a complicated dish.

I, too, then decided to leap to the challenge of making Canard en Croûte. At first, I thought this dish might be too ‘fiddly’, but then again it would be good practice for me- in three months I’m off again to Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris to do the advanced cuisine course! Was this dish worth it? Was it worth the many hours spent in the kitchen and dropping my knife several times on my foot? Read to the end of this post and see!

(P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please do ‘like’ my G’day Souffle’ Facebook page!)

The first steps to making the dish involve removing all the bones of the duck, leaving the skin in tact. It’s important to start with a positive ‘can-do’ attitude- remember that you are master of the duck!

JC with duckTo bone the duck, start with the back of the duck facing upwards. First you cut a deep slit down one side of the backbone (going from neck to tail), pulling the flesh away from the carcass using your fingers.  

First cut down one side of back bone

First cut down one side of back bone

 As your knife reaches the ball joint of the thigh, you find that you’ve hit a roadblock. You now need to sever or ‘snap’ the joint using your fingers and you can now slice to the end of the backbone.

Snap tendon at thigh ball joint

Snap tendon at thigh ball joint

Continue cutting to bottom of duck

Continue cutting to bottom of duck

Now repeat this process on the other side of the back bone. You will now see a fully exposed back bone with the ribs attached- cut away this part of the carcass to tidy things up and make it more manageable to handle the remaining carcass. Next you cut very close to the ridge of the breastbone to free the carcass, being careful not to cut the skin. Once the carcass is fully released, you’re not done yet! There are still the bones to remove from the wings and thighs. To remove the bone from the thighs, scrape the meat from the bone going from the ball joint to the tip of the thigh. Repeat with the wings.

Scrape meet from drum sticks and wings to remove bones

Scrape meet from drum sticks and wings to remove bones

At some point, Julia warns us that the whole duck carcass with dangling legs, etc will appear to be an unrecognizable mass of confusion and therefore we should not  be overcome with fright. Several times, I had to remind myself to put on my ‘Julia hat’ and fill myself with confidence. Yes, I can bone six ducks if I wanted to! JC with many ducks After boning the duck, you are left with an empty ‘duck suit,’ ready to be stuffed, then rolled and stitched up into a loaf shape.

Fully boned duck

Fully boned duck

Add stuffing to center of duck

Add stuffing to center of duck


Fold sides together, stitch up back opening and tie together into loaf

Fold sides together, stitch up back opening and tie together into loaf

Next, you brown the duck in oil on the stovetop. Prepare a chilled pastry dough and roll 2/3 of it out into an oval shape (1/8 inches thick). Place the browned duck on top of the dough with the breast side facing up and bring the pastry up around the duck, patting it into place.

Cover duck bottom with pastry

Cover duck bottom with pastry

Roll out the remaining pastry into an oval shape and place it on top of the duck. Brush pastry top with egg wash. Cut out small pastry decorations using a cookie cutter, using back of knife to press fan-shaped lines into them. Coat them also with the egg wash. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 350 F (180 C). Julia recommends serving the dish chilled, but you can also serve it hot. Uncooked Duck Pastry Before serving, you’ll need to lift the top crust off and remove the duck, to cut all of the trussings. Place the duck back into the pastry to serve.

Bake and enjoy!

Bake and enjoy!

 But was it worth it? Julia Child gave people the confidence to toss out their TV dinners and to get into the kitchen to cook- even complicated things like Pâté de Canard en Croûte. I accepted the challenge and happily succeeded! This dish is indeed an impressive sight when you bring it to the dinner table! So, yes, it was worth it. But bones are what give meat dishes their juicy flavor – so why remove them? And there are other duck dishes that are more delicious and simpler to prepare (see my Duck Breast in Orange Sauce). So, yes, with this dish Canard en Croûte, I admit I was showing off a bit, but probably I won’t be doing it again! It will be back to my ‘blogging is sharing’ once more.  

4.8 from 5 reviews
Boned Duck Baked in Pastry
Serves: 6
  • 1 duck
  • salt/pepper
  • 2 tbsp. cognac
  • 2 tbsp. port
  • For the stuffing
  • ½ cup mined onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup port or cognac
  • 1½ cups each minced pork and veal
  • 1 cup minced pork fat
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • t tbsp orange zest
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • For the pastry dough
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups chilled butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • about ½ cup cold water
  1. Cut the wings of the duck at the first joint and bone the duck as per the instructions (above). Lay the bird skin-side down on a cutting board. Slice off some of the thickest parts of the meat from the duck breast and thigh meat and cut into cubes. Place the cubes back onto the duck, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the cognac and port. Roll the duck up and place in fridge while preparing the pastry and stuffing.
  2. For the stuffing, cook the diced onion and garlic slowly in butter until they are tender and translucent. Transfer to large mixing bowl and add the port and cognac, minced pork, veal and pork fat. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, orange zest and chopped walnuts and mix well.
  3. To prepare the dough, place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled, cubed butter; rub the flour and butter together between the palms of your hands until it resembles fine sand. Add the eggs and mix with a wooden spoon. Add enough cold water so the dough easily holds it shape when formed into a ball. Turn the dough mixture out onto your work surface and knead several times until the dough forms a cohesive ball. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the duck from the fridge. Place the duck skin-side facing down on a work surface. Place enough stuffing inside the duck to cover the center part. Fold both sides inward toward the center and stitch up the opening using kitchen string and a trussing needle. Wrap and tie the string around the duck in 4 – 5 places to hold it together while cooking. Heat several tablespoons of oil in a large casserole dish or saucepan and brown the duck on all sides; let cool for several minutes
  5. Remove dough from fridge. Roll out ⅔ of the dough into an oval shape on a floured surface. Place the trussed duck on top of the dough, with the breast side facing up. Bring the edges of the dough up around the duck and pat into place. Roll out the remaining dough into an oval shape and place on top of the bottom crust. Pinch or press the edges of the top and bottom crusts together. Brush the top crust with an egg wash. Roll out the remaining pastry dough and cut out small round or oval shapes using a cookie cutter. Use the back of a knife to press fan-shaped lines into them. Decorate the top crust with these shapes. Brush the entire top crust and pastry decorations with egg wash. Place a foil funnel or piping nozzle in the center of the pastry to let out steam during baking.
  6. Bake for 1.5 to 2 hours at 180 C or 360 F. Remove from oven and let cool. Lift the top crust gently off and lift out the duck. Cut off the trussings, place the duck back inside the pastry and replace the top crust. Serve either cold or warm.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    [email protected] Riffs
    March 26, 2014 at 4:19 am

    I’ve always wondered about this dish, whether the flavor payoff was worth the trouble. Although I love pastry, I’ve never been a big fan of some of the meat dishes that are baked in it (Beef Wellington, for example; meat pies are different, however). Anyway, glad you did this so I don’t have to! I have a duck in the freezer that I need to use, and this recipe actually crossed my mind, although I pretty quickly rejected it. Looks great and sounds like it tastes pretty good; but there are better options. Fun post — thanks.
    [email protected] Riffs recently posted…New Orleans Barbecue ShrimpMy Profile

  • Reply
    March 26, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Thank you so much for your comment. This dish/post took me two days to prepare so I am really thankful or your comment, John!
    Fran recently posted…Boned Duck Baked in PastryMy Profile

  • Reply
    Joanne T Ferguson
    March 26, 2014 at 10:49 am

    G’day and WOW Fran; very labor intensive, but looks delicious!
    I used to watch Julia in black and white when I was little too!
    Well done! Looks great!
    Cheers! Joanne
    Joanne T Ferguson recently posted…10 Reasons Why You Will Love Chef Jean-Claude’s #Homefresh Experience Coq Au VinMy Profile

    • Reply
      March 26, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Thank you, Joanne. Actually I wasn’t too aware of Julia Child until the movie came out several years ago!
      Fran recently posted…Boned Duck Baked in PastryMy Profile

  • Reply
    March 26, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Wow…I have never had this dish…thanks for introducing me to it…this looks fabulous and you just made it so pretty…I love all the pictures. I am very impressed Fran.
    Have a wonderful week 😀

  • Reply
    Kumar's Kitchen
    March 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    we just love learning recipes from your blog…they are so perfect…thanks for the inspiration our friend…HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY!!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    March 26, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Holy cow, Fran! I LOVE it when you show off!! How else are we all going to be challenged to better if people like you don’t show the way. 🙂

    This looks outstanding!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted…Roasted Carrot and Butternut Tortellini with Brown Butter and Sage SauceMy Profile

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    March 27, 2014 at 7:15 am

    Your end lines cracked me up…I am honestly not a fan of labor intensive dishes, especially when I can better ones at 1/4 th of the trouble. But if someone else makes it and treats me to it…I would never say no. I don’t mind adding ingredients in a pan and swirling them around, but I get allergic the moment multiple sessions of chopping, gringding, heating, tying baking is concerned…Which is why I love it when people share simple dishes. But this does look fabulous, and I must say, I am immpressed.
    [email protected] recently posted…Roti/Chappati Indian flatbread Step by stepMy Profile

  • Reply
    March 30, 2014 at 7:49 am

    OMG Fran I admire you that you achieved this challenge.
    I probably never will, but it was fun and interesting to read your post and then- I think I’ll stick to your duck breast in orange sauce 🙂
    Daniela recently posted…Spring Green Salad With Caramelized Pears, Blue Cheese and Crisp Jamon SerranoMy Profile

  • Reply
    The Hungry Mum
    March 30, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    wow – what a snazzy looking meal! I don’t have the talent for this.
    The Hungry Mum recently posted…Chocolate brownie s’mores pie with caramelised marshmallowMy Profile

  • Reply
    Anneli Faiers
    March 30, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    I am impressed indeed! Nothing wrong with a bit of showing off! It looks so technical…I would be a little scared. And I am not sure it is a dish for me. I am not a fan of things in pastry as I find them a bit heavy. And I prefer my duck very pink and I guess that is harder to control cooking it this way. None the less, to have mastered a ‘Julia’ classic is a worthy achievement. xx

  • Reply
    Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice
    May 9, 2014 at 2:27 am

    WOW! What an exquisite dish. Thank you for sharing!
    Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice recently posted…Strawberry and Spinach SmoothieMy Profile

  • Reply
    Chris Savage
    May 8, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Fran looks great. I have never made it with pastry and you have inspired me to try it. Boning a duck/chicken and stuffing it as a log coated in some sort of sticky glaze has been a standby of mine since I first practiced on a chicken when I was 12. I probably use it at least a couple of times a year and as I am nearing 50 you can probably guess I have got a lot better at boning!
    You say why do it when the bones give flavour. Well a duck will feed 4 to 6 people at a dinner party where the roll will slice to feed at least double that so it is an economical way of having an expensive meat stretch to feed a crowd without losing the wow factor. When money is tight but you love entertaining it is a great way of balancing the dinner party budget.

  • Reply
    May 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks, Chris, for your comment. This dish is definitely a nice ‘show-off’ recipe for your guests. By cooking the duck without the bones, you lose some flavour, however this can be compensated for by adding the seasonings and pork fat. I agree- you can certainly feed a lot of people with this recipe!
    Fran recently posted…Fish Fillets in White Wine Sauce (Filets de Poisson Dugléré)My Profile

  • Reply
    May 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    What do you eat with it??…

  • Reply
    December 28, 2016 at 3:37 am

    I made this dish for Christmas this year and it turned out very well. However, it seems like there is no indication in the written instructions at the bottom of whether or not to brown the duck before enfolding it en croute. In the pictorial directions it shows the duck browned first. Please clarify. I opted to brown the duck first. Is it necessary?

    • Reply
      December 28, 2016 at 3:59 am

      Aaron, thanks so much for your comment and I’m glad your duck turned out well (reminds me that I should try to make this dish again soon)! Yes, the written directions should say to brown the duck first- I have now updated the written instructions to reflect this.
      Fran recently posted…Mini Raspberry CheesecakesMy Profile

    Leave a Reply

    Rate this recipe:  
    CommentLuv badge