- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Moderate
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One evening recently I was cooking sauteed duck breasts, a favorite at our house, when I thought of Peking duck and wondered if I couldn’t dream up a version for this book. Peking duck is a great classic of Chinese cuisine, “a dish fit for an emperor,” according to writer Emily Hahn, but making it damn near requires an emperor’s kitchen staff. Ms. Hahn, writing in Time-Life’s The Cooking of China (1968), laid out some of the details:
The traditional version calls for the choicest fowl, brought to the exact degree of plumpness and tenderness through force-feeding, and got ready for the table by a many-staged process [including air-drying it for a full day]. The birds are roasted in a mud-lined oven, suspended from hooks to ensure even heat on all sides.
In short, no home cook in his or her right mind is ever going to make traditional Peking duck--at least not on a weeknight.
Think of this recipe, then, as Peking duck light. (That’s light on procedure, not on flavor.) You use the same kind of duck, but the breasts only, and you saute them, which takes only about 15 minutes. (The skin won’t turn out quite as crispy as if you had roasted the duck, but it’s plenty crispy enough.) The Asian-style coleslaw with which I’ve supplemented the classic recipe provides acidic contrast to the sweet hoisin and fatty skin. Roll it all up in my cheating nonhomemade pancakes (aka flour tortillas) and you have a feast in every bite. Best of all, you can measure the hands-on cooking time in minutes (about 25 of them), not days.
- 4 Peking duck breast halves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Ginger Hoisin Sauce (recipe follows)
- ½ medium napa cabbage
- 1 medium jicama
- 1 medium red bell pepper
- 4 medium scallions
- 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Eight 8-inch flour tortillas
Ginger Hoisin Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium, if you prefer)
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- ½ garlic clove
- Cayenne pepper
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Score the skin on each breast half in a crisscross pattern. Season the duck on all sides with salt and black pepper to taste and place, skin side down, in the skillet. Cook until the skin looks very crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not remove the fat as you go; the liquid fat in the pan helps to render out the fat in the skin.
2. When the duck skin is crisp, remove the duck to a plate, skin side down; pour off almost all the fat from the pan and reserve it for another use or discard it. Return the duck to the skillet, meat side down, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more for medium-rare. Return the duck to the plate, skin side up, cover it loosely with aluminum foil, and set it aside for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the Ginger Hoisin Sauce. Combine soy sauce, hoisin sauce, grated fresh ginger, rice vinegar, garlic, and a pinch of cayenne pepper in a small saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes.
4. Shred the cabbage (about 2 cups). Peel the jicama; finely chop both the jicama and bell pepper either by hand or in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade (about 1 cup each). Trim and thinly slice the scallions crosswise (about ½ cup). Stir together the vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and the crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl until the salt dissolves. Add the cabbage, jicama, bell pepper, and scallions and toss until the salad is well mixed.
5. Spread out the tortillas on a work surface. Spread them with sauce, dividing it equally. Thinly slice the duck at an angle into ¼-inch-thick slices and arrange the slices on the tortillas; top with the cabbage salad. Fold in the sides of the tortillas and roll up. Place 2, seam side down, on each of 4 plates.
© 2010 Sara Moulton Enterprises, Inc.
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.