“Faux” Peking Duck
My favorite Chinese food is Peking Duck served with Mandarin style pancakes, a bit of hoisin and topped with cucumber and green onions. They’re basically Asian duck tacos, and I think I could eat them almost every day. I crave that crispy, golden skin and tender meat. When I was growing up the best weeknight was when dad would pick up Chinese food from our favorite spot on his way home (nothing against mom's cooking here). It was your standard Chinese food spot, located in the corner of a strip mall with the standard name, China Gourmet. It actually happened to be a favorite of Whitney Houston as well. All our family members had their favorite order and mine was always Peking Duck. As usual my pick was the expensive one but still a must-order and always a hit.
While your authentic peking duck takes a ton of time as air has to be pumped under the skin, this is my (relatively) sped up and simplified version also with crispy skin. Adding the boiling water over the duck makes the skin shrink up and tighten. Then using your finger to separate the skin from the meat recreates the method of pumping air under the skin. The steam from the hot water will make the duck dry out again.
While it can often be difficult to find whole duck (and authentically the duck is prepared with the head attached), I lucked out and found Tasty Duck on the Internet and they who sent me whole ducks to use! They will even send it to your house! If you can’t find whole duck, the same preparation can be used for four duck breasts, which can be located much more easily. Roast for about 25 minutes instead, the internal temperature should still read 135ºF.
1 (5-6 pound whole duck), preferably Long Island Pekin
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ cup hoisin sauce
1 bunch green onions, julienned
1 large English cucumber, peeled and julienned
Rinse the duck and pat it completely dry. Remove the neck and giblets and discard. Remove excess fat and discard. Prick the skin of the duck all over with a fork, particularly around the breast.
In a small bowl whisk together the baking soda, salt, pepper, 5-spice powder, soy sauce and brown sugar. The mixture will fizz. Rub the mixture all over the duck then place on a plate and refrigerate, uncovered, and let dry overnight.
The next day, use your fingers to gently separate the skin of the duck from the meat. Pat the duck completely dry with paper towels inside and out.
Bring a quart of water to a boil. Place a duck on a roasting rack over the sink. Blanch the duck with the boiling water by pouring it over it. The skin will tighten and dry out more.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the duck on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and prick the duck again. Continue roasting, uncovered, until the juices run slightly pink when pricked in the thickest part of the thigh (the internal temperature should read 135ºF), about 40 to 45 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
Carve the duck and serve with the pancakes, hoisin, cucumber and green onions.