A Bakers & Best Thanksgiving: Crispy Chinese Duck
I’ll apologize now for the decreased photo quality in today and tomorrow’s posts. We’re well on our way to winter here which means limited daylight. Given the exceptionally poor lighting in our apartment it gets much harder to take good food pictures when the sun has already set, which is when I made this dish and tomorrow’s dessert. But I promise you, both are incredible and worthy of your time. So, onward!
Everyone’s family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. My dad, sister, and I hold an annual competition to guess the number of desserts at our aunt’s. This is always accompanied by a debate over the rules that lasts the entire car ride. If there are three platters of cookies, does that count as one dessert or three? What about a fruit plate, or a bowl of candy? Are we governed by Price Is Right style guessing, where you can’t go over the actual number? Until last year the Detroit Lions for 10 years running the tradition of losing their Thanksgiving football game.
Growing up my wife and her family eschewed the usual Thanksgiving turkey for duck. Until I met her I had never eaten duck, and I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever eaten it is when we’ve made this crispy Chinese duck recipe, courtesy of her father. You may remember from Monday’s post that it wasn’t until last Friday night I decided to embark on this Thanksgiving food-venture. Tasty as it looked, it took me 5 minutes of watching Alton Brown’s turkey episode of Good Eats to convince myself that brining and roasting a turkey on one day’s notice was a terrible idea. This duck was the perfect final addition to our plate.
Taste it and it seems like a fancy restaurant dish. Loaded with flavors and with an amazingly crispy outside you’d think this had a long ingredient list and required hours of preparation. Nope! Three ingredients (duck, soy sauce, and five spice) and it is ready in just over 2 hours, depending on how big the duck is. If you have never roasted a whole bird before this is a good start. It’s small, low maintenance, and pretty hard to screw up. You’ll get the best results if you use a vertical roaster, which if you don’t have you can get for relatively cheap.
And when you’ve polished off all the duck, you can make duck soup (not that kind)! Just save the duck bones and innards as you go in a container in the freezer. When you’re done toss them in a pot, cover with chicken broth (plus a little extra), and cover. Simmer for about an hour until any meat still on the bones easily comes off. As best you can remove the bones, but you should be resigned that a few will make it into the final soup. Slice up a napa (Chinese) cabbage and cook it in the soup for a few minutes until it softens. If you’d like you can also add some cellophane noodles.
The above picture, courtesy of my father in law, does a better job of showing the finished product. There are two notes of his that I want to share which are important. First off, when you are only using 3 ingredients you want to make sure they are high quality. To paraphrase the recipe he gave us, ‘If you aren’t going to use real soy sauce, just order takeout.’ My wife elaborated on this for me by explaining that some brands, like La Choy, are actually completely chemically processed (we use Kikkoman). And don’t baste it! If you really need to get your Thanksgiving basting fix, just wait for tomorrow’s post.
So now your deliciously carb heavy Thanksgiving plate is complete. You’ve polished it off and sprawled out on the couch. But 15 minutes later that magical space in your stomach comes calling for dessert. I’ve got you covered; check back tomorrow for the final installment of a Bakers & Best Thanksgiving!
- 5-6 lb whole duck, thawed with innards and spine removed (save in freezer to be used in duck bone soup)
- ⅓ C high quality soy sauce
- 2 tsp five spice (sometimes called Chinese five spice)
- 1 C water
- Two days before you plan to roast the duck place it in the refrigerator to thaw. If short on time it can be partially thawed in one day, then rinsed in cool water before roasting.
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Remove the spine and innards (save for soup later) and if not fully defrosted rinse the duck briefly with room temperature water. Pat dry.
- Place the duck on a vertical roaster and place in a foil lined oven pan (makes for easy clean up later). Use a fork to poke holes through the skin of the duck.
- Mix the soy sauce and five spice together until well combined. Use a brush to cover the duck with the sauce, making sure to get under the wings. Pour the water in the bottom of the roasting pan. The duck should not touch the water.
- Bake for approximately 2 hours for a 5 lb duck, 2 hrs 15 minutes for a 6 lb duck. The wings will move freely when done. If measuring, the duck should have an internal temperature of at least 170 F. However it will reach this before it is done, the skin needs additional time to crisp up.