Crispy Split Duck


What You’ll Need:

5 lbs. duck
2 tbsp. salt
5 scallions, chopped
1 cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
3 slices ginger, peeled and shredded
6 tbsp. dry sherry or Chinese sweet
rice vinegar
Oil for deep frying (peanut oil preferred)

1) Split the duck (use kitchen shears to cut top of bird and cleave the bottom in half) and remove wings and neck (these are good for stew or gumbo).

2) Rub the duck well with salt. Mix remaining ingredients except oil. Pour half the marinade sauce on a plate that will fit inside your steamer. Pour the other half over the duck. Feel free to add slices of orange, lemon or pieces of star anise. Put the plate in the steamer and bring your water to boil. Steam the duck sections for 3 to 5 hours, adding more water periodically. Keep vigil; do not prematurely crisp your duck!

3) When the ducks are finished steaming, carefully remove them to a platter and let them cool until they are completely dry (plan on four hours minimum, unless you put them in the refrigerator uncovered for a part of that time). It is imperative the duck be totally dry before you deep-fry them, otherwise they will not be crispy. Also, if there is moisture on the duck it will create a minor—or major—revolution in the 370 degree oil.

4) Since the duck halves will be super-tender after their lengthy steambath, it’s easier to cut the halves in half before frying.

5) Deep-fry the duck skin-side down for 4 or 5 minutes until it is brown and crispy. Then turn it once briefly and remove and drain. Once drained, serve on a bed of lettuce, leaving the two sections whole.

Many Chinese recipes call for other presentations, including totally deboning the duck. They also call for Mandarin pancakes, hoisin or duck sauce. I prefer my crispy duck with Red Currant Sauce and no pancakes. I guess I am just not a traditional Chinese guy. But, I do like to have some cucumbers on the side and also scallion brushes (both traditional). Good Oriental rice or American wild rice makes a good accompaniment.

The most traditional presentation for Chinese duck with the pancakes is to use a scallion brush to apply sauce to the pancake and then add cucumber (optional) and the duck. The Duck Roll-ups were the original wrap. They preceded the fast-food places by about 10,000 years. But whether you wrap it in lettuce or use hoisin or some other sauce, the duck is the thing and the skin is an integral part of it. Perhaps in no other fish, game or fowl is the skin so revered as duck—and don’t even mention pork rinds.

RED CURRANT SAUCE

Note: This sauce is also good on upland game birds and small game. Also, currant jelly can be pricey but at least one Florida food chain has red currant jelly for about $1 a jar.

What You’ll Need:

10 oz. red currant jelly

1 lemon, juiced and zested (discard

the pulp)

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tsp. white sugar

Water

Depending on your tastes and the brand of currant jelly you buy, you may want to make slight adjustments in the recipe. Taste it before you add vinegar.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the jelly. Add the juice of the lemon and the lemon zest. Stir in vinegar and sugar. Add just enough water to make it the thickness you desire. When thickness is right and sugar has completely dissolved, it’s ready. Strain out the zest, if you prefer.

SCALLION BRUSHES

What You’ll Need:

Green onions, cut in halves or thirds

Bell pepper

Make a half dozen or so cuts about an inch deep into each end of the onions. Soak onions in bowl of water and ice until the ends curl. Wrap a thin strip of bell pepper around the middle of each section. FS