Chinese New Year celebrations started this past Friday and will continue until the next full moon, March 2. It’s not part of my culture, but I still like to cook something Chinese-style to mark the occasion.
This year, I decided it would be duck, which in Chinese culture symbolizes fidelity and happiness.
For my recipe, I first poked the duck all over with a fork, then stuffed it with onion, orange, ginger and garlic. I then rubbed the bird with aromatic five-spice powder, a Chinese-style blend of star anise, fennel seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon. Five-spice powder is sold at most supermarkets and at Chinese food stores. You could also make it yourself by using my recipe.
My next step was to set the duck on a rack in a roasting pan. I poured cold water into the pan until it reached just below the duck. The bird was covered and cooked 90 minutes in the oven, a process that steams the bird and encourages its generous amount of fat to run out of the little holes you poked into the skin.
The duck was then uncovered and roasted a while longer, before being brushed three times with a hoisin-sauce based-glaze. When it’s cooked, you end up with an appealing, lacquered-looking duck that tastes delicious.
Make a meal of the duck by serving it with steamed or fried rice and stir-fried vegetables.
Ducks are sold at many supermarkets, most often frozen. When set in a sided dish in the refrigerator, the duck will take about two days to thaw. You could also thaw the duck in a few hours by submerging it in a sink filled with cold water.
How to carve roast duck
Use these steps to carve today’s duck recipe into several nice pieces and slices you can arrange on a platter.
1. With a sharp carving knife, on one side of the duck, cut through the skin between the thigh and the breast. Pull the thigh away from the body and expose the hip joint. Cut through that joint and remove the leg. Repeat these steps to remove the other leg. Cut each leg into drumstick and thigh pieces and set on a serving platter.
2. Starting at the tail end, remove one side of the breast from the body by vertically cutting as close as you can along the breastbone. When you reach the wishbone, situated just above the wing, cut down along the wishbone toward the wing and remove the breast meat. Repeat this cut on the other side of the duck. Slice each breast, widthwise, into half-inch-thick or so slices and set them on the platter.
3. Cut off the tip and middle portion of each wing. Keep them for stock, or put them on the serving platter, too. Now cut off the lower part of each wing by slicing through the joint that connects the wing to the lower part of the breast. Set those wing pieces on the platter and the duck is ready to serve.
Hoisin-Glazed Five-Spice Roast Duck
This duck is covered and oven-steamed before being uncovered, roasted and basted with a hoisin-sauce-based glaze.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: Two hours 40 minutes
Makes: Four servings
For the glaze/sauce
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
For the duck
1 (5 lb.) duck
1 small onion, quartered
1 small navel orange, quartered
6 (1/4-inch thick) slices fresh ginger
3 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 Tbsp five-spice powder
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Make a glaze and dipping sauce for the duck by combining its ingredients in a medium bowl. Divide mixture between two smaller bowls. Cover and refrigerate both bowls until needed. One of the bowls will be used to glaze the duck. The other will be used as a dip for the duck when cooked.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove duck neck and innards from the duck’s cavity, if it contained them, and save for another use (see Note). Poke the duck all over with a fork. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the onion, orange, ginger and garlic.
Rub the duck all over with the five-spice powder. Tie the legs together with string, and fold and tuck the wings under the duck’s body. If there’s a large amount of loose neck-flap skin, trim some of it off and tuck the rest under the duck’s body, too.
Place the duck on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Pour cold water into the pan until it reaches just below the duck. Tightly cover duck with aluminum foil and roast for 90 minutes. Now uncover and roast the duck 30 minutes more.
Take out one of your bowls of glaze. Brush the duck with a third of it. Increase oven temperature to 400 F. Roast duck 10 minutes more, then baste with half the remaining glaze in the bowl. Roast 10 minutes more, then brush with remaining glaze. Roast the duck 10 minutes more, or until richly glazed.
Rest the duck 10 minutes before cutting into portions and arranging on a platter. Sprinkle with green onion and serve with the remaining glaze for dipping.
Note: If the duck’s neck was included with the bird, use it and the roasted carcass from the duck to make stock for Chinese-style soups. If the bird’s liver also came with the bird, I like to fry it up in butter, sliced, and serve it as a snack on a toasted baguette with a spoon of preserve, such as red pepper or red-currant jelly.
Here’s my method for making aromatic five-spice powder at home. I found the star anise and Szechuan peppercorns at Fisgard Market in Victoria’s Chinatown. But some supermarkets, such as Fairway Market, might also carry them.
Preparation time: Five minutes
Cooking time: Five minutes
Makes: About 1/2 cup
9 star anise
1 1/2 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 Tbsp Szechuan peppercorns
3 tsp whole cloves
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
Place spices in a large non-stick skillet and set over medium-low heat. Cook, swirling, until the spices become very aromatic, but are not discoloured, about five minutes. Cool spices to room temperature, then grind in a spice grinder, or pound to a powder with a mortar and pestle. For extra-fine five-spice powder, sift ground spices through a fine sieve. Store in a tight-sealing jar.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.