Becca's Peking Duck

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September 2004
What a fun experience!  I made my very first Peking Duck.  It had crispy skin, juicy, flavorful meat.  The color was great.  The taste was magnificent.  I can't wait to make another one!
To make the duck, I followed the Ken Hom recipe in his Chinese Cookery book.  You start with a 4 to 5 pound duck.  If it is frozen, thaw it thoroughly.  Rinse the duck and pat it dry with paper towels.  The duck will need to hang overnight in a cool, dry place.  So, you will need to tie kitchen string under and around the wings, and then be able to hang the duck using the string.  Or, if you have a meat hook, you can insert the hook through the duck near its neck.  Use whatever works best for you.  I used kitchen string wrapped around the wings.
Next you make the honey syrup mixture in which the duck will bathe prior to hanging.  In a large pot combine:  1 thinly sliced lemon, 4 cups water, 3 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce and 2/3 cup rice wine or dry sherry.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Turn the heat down and allow the mixture to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. 

The next part is the tricky part!  Bathing the duck.  I moved the pot of syrup to the sink so I wouldn't make a huge mess.  With one hand hold the duck over the pot.  Using a ladle or large spoon in the other hand, pour the syrup over the duck several times, until all the skin and the inside of the duck is completely coated with the mixture.  This process takes a good 5 to 10 minutes.  If your arms get tired, rest the duck on the side of the pot for a minute or two.  This is your flavoring, so you want to really coat the duck well.

Time to hang the duck!  Here's what we did:  we cleaned out half of our refrigerator and removed the shelves.  Using a half sheet pan cooling rack on the top shelf support we hung our duck.  Make sure to put a pan under the duck to catch the drippings, or you will have a mess in your refrigerator.  If you don't have room in your refrigerator, try to find a cool spot in your house, basement or garage.  My brother always hang his ducks from the handles of the kitchen cabinets.  The house was cool enough not to cause any issues.  Put it this way, I've eaten his ducks for over 25 years and have never gotten sick. 

Let the duck hang and dry at least 5 hours.  I hung mine for a little over 24 hours.  Once the duck has dried, the purpose of this step, the surface of the skin will begin to feel like parchment.

After 24 hours.  You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the skin is nice and dry.  (See the drippings in the pan?  Don't forget to put one under your duck!)

Time to cook the duck!  Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

While the oven is heating up, place the duck on a rack in your roasting pan, breast side up.  Put 1/2 to 1 cup of water in the bottom of the roasting pan.  This will help reduce splattering in the oven from the duck fat.  Place the duck in the hot oven.  If you have convection and want really crisp skin, turn the convection on for this part of the cooking.  Cook at this high heat for 15 minutes.
To the right is the duck after 15 minutes.  Pull the duck from the oven.  Turn it breast side down on the rack and return the duck to the oven.  Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.  Turn off the convection if you have it on.  Cook the duck for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, turn the duck back over to breast side up and continue cooking for 40 minutes.
Remove the duck from the oven.  You can see all the rendered fat and the importance of using a rack and having water in the bottom of the pan.
Place the duck on a cutting board and allow to rest for at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to carving. 
Using a cleaver or very sharp chef's knife, cut the skin and meat into pieces and place on a warm platter.
Serve the duck with chinese pancakes (mu shu wrappers), duck sauce and sliced scallions.  If you can't find chinese wrappers, you can use canned flaky biscuits.  Instead of baking the biscuits you want to steam them.  Pull flaky layers apart and place them in a single layer in steamer.  Steam for 4 to 5 minutes until puffy and cooked through.

For duck sauce, combine equal parts of hoisin sauce and duck demi-glace.  If you don't have duck demi-glace, take either duck or chicken stock and cook it down until it's about 1/4 original volume.  Mix the reduced stock with hoisin sauce in a one to one ratio.  (Use low sodium stock as you are concentrating it and you don't want to OD on salt!)

To eat, take a steamed biscuit or warmed mu shu wrapper.  Coat with a little duck sauce.  Top with pieces of scallion (green onion), duck meat and duck skin.  Fold in the middle and eat like a little taco or little burrito.

We served our dinner with a lovely little 1999 Domaine de Bosquets, Preference, Gigondas.

Most importantly...  ENJOY!


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