Monday, March 30, 2015

Roasted Peking Duck with Scallion Pancakes and Plum Sauce

If you want to get "cultured" in your house...well, it doesn't get more ethnic than this.

Peking, or Beijing, style duck is a very traditional Chinese dish. The duck is basted in molasses and spices, roasted slowly, and develops a delicious crispy brown skin and succulent, soft meat. The pancakes can be made crepe style, without the scallions, or thicker, and with them. Either way, they are a scrumptious accompaniment.

I've included the recipes for the duck itself, the pancakes, and also the amazing plum sauce that positively MUST be homemade to get the real effect.

-1 duck (4-6 lb)
-1/2 cup molasses
-1/4 cup honey (I always use unpasteurized, fresh honey--it's a whole different animal)
-2 tbsp. soy sauce
-2 tablespoons 5 spice powder (1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cloves, 1 tsp. fennel seed, 1 tsp. star anise, and 1 tsp. szechuan peppercorns all ground together)

-1 bundle of scallions, chopped (for serving)
-1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced (for serving)

Prepare the duck one day ahead of time.

First, grind up all of your spices. I did it the old school way, using my massive pestle and mortar. I generally add in a few things at a time, not all at once. You also have the option of using a spice grinder or food processor.

Next, combine the spices with your molasses, honey, and soy sauce. Pour about 1/4 cup of this into a small bowl and put it in the fridge for tomorrow.

Now get your duck prepped. Be sure to take out anything in the cavity (gizzards, kidneys, random sauce packets etc...) and while it's in the sink, pour just boiled water over the bird to remove any bacteria. Pat dry with paper towels, and set in a rack inside a roasting pan.

Now this is the fun part. Baste the bird with your molasses mixture, being sure to get the front and back, and also getting some in the cavity. You will see a gawgeous Beverly Hills duck by the time you are done.

Place it in the fridge overnight, uncovered. This will allow the sauce to dry.

The next day, when you are ready to bake, set the oven to 350F. Give the bird another baste with your remaining sauce and place it in the oven. Mine took about 1.5 hours to reach a 165F internal temperature.

Check the duck about half way through to be sure it's not browning too quickly. You may cover it with some tin foil to stop the browning process, if needed.

During the roasting process....

Plum Sauce: 
-1/3 cup hoisin sauce
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 tsp. sesame oil
-1 tbsp. soy sauce
-1 tbsp. corn starch mixed with 1 tbsp. water

Combine everything except corn starch mixture in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture bubbles. Take off of the heat and pour in the cornstarch and water. Pour into serving "vessel" and set aside to cool.

Scallion (or Plain) Pancakes:
-3/4 cup warm water
-1 cup flour
-1/4 tsp. salt
-1 tsp. sesame oil
-2 tbsp. finely chopped scallions
-extra flour for dusting

Combine everything except scallions with a fork. Once you've got a good blob going, coat your hands and work surface in flour, and dump the dough out. Work it until you've got a nice, springy dough, adding flour as needed to thicken consistency. Divide this lump into 8 equally-sized pieces.

Take one of these bits and roll it out into a rectangle shape. Sprinkle some scallions along the edge, and roll up the rectangle into a log. Spin this log into a spiral shape, and roll it out again, to form a nice, round pancake-shape. Try to keep it between 1/8-1/4 inch thick, being sure not to smoosh the scallions too much. If you are making these without the scallions, you can make them thinner--that way you can wrap them easily around your duck! I made a combination of scallion and plain ones for variety. Plus, the thicker scallion pancakes are really good on their own--as an appetizer or snack.

Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat, and drizzle in 1 tsp. sesame oil. Cook your pancakes until golden brown on each side.Leave to rest on paper towel, and cover with a damp towel, to keep them soft.

 *If you are making the scallion-less ones, be sure not to cook them more than a few minutes, or they will be more like Asian chips than pancakes.* The one below is thin, and has no scallions.

Back to the duck...


Once the duck is all finished cooking, pull it out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. Prep your plates with:

-a pile of pancakes
-a scattering of chopped scallions and thinly sliced cucumber
-plum sauce

Carve your duck, and you can keep on that gorgeous skin, as there is a ton of flavor there. Serve your Peking Duck wrapped inside the pancakes along with your other fixin's. These are essentially Chinese tacos, guys.

(I had carrots when I made these the first time...just don't. They weren't as good as the cucumber.)