I never think of cooking Chinese cuisine. When I crave good Chinese food, I head to the communal tables at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown for tasty soup dumplings. Now that I know how much fun it is to roast restaurant-quality Peking duck, I plan to cook more Chinese at home.
The key to good Peking duck is the many-stage and all-day process of drying the skin, removing excess fat and glazing the bird with aromatic ingredients so that the roasted bird is crispy on the outside, lean, not greasy, and very moist on the inside.
Early on Saturday, after picking up a fresh -- never frozen -- Long Island duckling, I started the prep. Drying the skin is step one. I hung it using a string wrapped under its wings and over a kitchen cabinet knob and used a fan to speed up the process.
While the duck was drying, I then headed out to Sang Lee Farms with my teenage stepdaughter and favorite assistant, Camille. The farmer, Fred Lee, was there. Sang Lee is known for its specialty Asian vegetables. I bought green and purple scallions, a Thai pepper, and some bok choy for an easy side dish.
A 5-minute bath in a honey glaze is step two. Camille helped me lower the duck into the wok.
Step 3 is drying the freshly glazed skin again using the same method as step one. The Time-Life recipe calls for one hour in front of a fan at this stage; however, I followed other recipes that called for longer drying times.
We had a pancake bakeoff. I used the sugar-free version in the book. Camille added sugar to hers. Her recipe was better. Two flour-water pancakes made with a cookie cutter are brushed with sesame oil, stacked and rolled again, cooked in a hot pan for two minutes and then separated. We had fun peeling the pancakes apart.
I whipped up a delicious (and local) beach plum sauce from jam in my pantry. Although a bottled hoisin sauce would be delicious as well.
About 2-1/2 hours before I planned to serve dinner, and when the skin was dry like “parchment paper”, I roasted the duck.
As detailed in the recipe below and shown in the top photograph, the duck is plated on a serving dish, separating the various parts (crispy skin, legs, breast meat). Diners take a pancake, brush on sauce using a scallion that's been cut to make a brush, put duck meat and skin on top, roll up the pancake with the ingredients inside - and then take a heavenly bite.
Peking Duck-- A Dish Fit for an Emperor
Adapted from Time-Life's
Foods of the World Chinese Cooking
8 cups water
¼ cup honey
4 slices ginger root, sliced 1/8” thick
Wash duck. Wipe dry and tie string under wings. Hang in a cool place in front of a fan for 2 hours. Fill a large wok with bath ingredients. Stir and boil. Lower duck into the boiling liquid and ladle liquid over duck to moisten all sides (continue for 5 minutes). Hang duck again and fan for 3-6 more hours.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place duck breast side up on rack in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of water. Roast for one hour. Lower to 300 degrees (F), turn duck breast side down and roast 30 minutes. Turn breast side up again, roast 30 minutes until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. Let sit on top of the stove for 15 minutes before carving. Using a sharp knife cut off crispy skin, carve legs and wings from the bird and slice the meat. Cut the skin into neat bite size pieces and the meat. Serve skin, legs and wings, and duck meat on separate serving platters.
Brush sauce onto pancake using scallion brush, add duck, some crispy skin, and scallion garnish. Roll pancake like a taco and eat. Serves 4.
Beverage Pairing: Serve with red or white wine: white Riesling or red Pinot Noir. I selected the just released 2008 Duckwalk Vineyards Pinot Noir from Long Island.
Beach Plum Sauce
Heat until bubbling and let cool: ½ cup of beach plum jam, 1 tablespoon of local honey, 1 tablespoon of brown rice vinegar, ½ tablespoon of grated ginger root and ¼ teaspoon of Thai pepper.
For a video and tasty recipe, check out Videojug’s How to Make Chinese Pancakes.
You’ll need flour, water, sesame oil, sugar and a few special tools, including a rolling pin, cookie cutter and stop watch. Pancakes can be made ahead and steamed right before serving.
ABOUT THE LOCAL FOODS
Crescent Farms: Of literally hundreds of Long Island duck farms from the 1930’s and 1940’s on Long Island, only two remain.
Sang Lee Farm: largest grower of Asian vegetables for Community Supported Agriculture and Farmers Market customers
Duckwalk Vineyards and Winery
Paumanok Preserves and a few other local jam and jelly entrepreneurs make jam with local beach plums. Beach plums are native to Long Island and Cape Cod.
Honey by Don Sausser Apiaries of Southampton