3 Muscovy ducks, around 3 1/2 pounds each, or Peking ducks
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Remove giblets and neck from cavity of each duck, reserving necks for Zinfandel-cranberry sauce, and trim excess fat. Rub cavity and skin with salt and pepper. To ensure crisp skin, use a paring knife or skewer to pierce skin on breast and back (not legs), without penetrating meat, in 20 to 30 places. Truss legs for a more attractive presentation (optional). Place ducks breast side down on a rack in a roasting pan and cook for 3 hours, repricking skin after each hour and pouring fat from pan. Turn ducks breast side up, increase temperature to 350 degrees, and cook for 45 minutes more. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Wild-Rice Patties

6 tablespoons chopped walnuts
6 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped exotic mushrooms,
such as portobello, crimini, oyster,
or shiitake
1/2 cup flour
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup good-quality chicken stock,
such as Swanson’s
2 cups cooked wild rice (cook according
to package directions)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
2 green onions, bulb and stem, chopped

Note: The patties should be made a day ahead.

Toast walnuts and pecans and set aside (see directions for toasting pecans in recipe for salad).

In a large sauté pan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add minced onion and garlic and cook until transparent. Add mushrooms and nuts and cook for 3 minutes more. Sprinkle lightly with flour and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes, being careful not to burn mixture. Stir in cream and stock and bring to a simmer, then stir in rice. Season with salt and pepper and cook until most of liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in bread crumbs and green onions.

Shape rice mixture into 8 patties, or more smaller patties if desired. (Baking rings help retain the patties’ shape, as the mixture is crumbly.) Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, lightly flour and sauté the patties in remaining butter until light brown, drain on paper towels, and serve. The patties may be reheated in a 350-degree oven for 4 or 5 minutes, or in the microwave.

Zinfandel-Cranberry Sauce

3 duck necks
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/8 onion
salt to taste
1 1/2 cups Zinfandel
3 cups ruby port
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon cold butter

Note: You can use 2 cups good-quality canned chicken stock (such as Swanson’s) instead of making duck stock. If using canned stock, skip to the next paragraph. To prepare stock yourself, put 4 cups water in a medium saucepan and add first 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Season to taste with salt. Strain stock and discard vegetables.

Return liquid to saucepan, add Zinfandel and port, bring to a simmer, and reduce by half. Sauce will be thin. Add cranberries and simmer for about 2 minutes. Just before using, add cold butter and stir until melted. Serve in a gravy boat; the sauce is good on both the duck and the rice patties.