For Chinese New Year, a bit of fusion cuisine. Every year we have a party for the lunar new year, and I try to make some kind of highly impressive centerpiece dish. One year I made a Szechuan duck that is similar to Peking duck, but like all Chinese duck recipes it requires last-minute preparation — in this case deep-frying — and I’d rather not spend all my time in the kitchen after our guests have arrived. So for the year of the horse (2002) I invented this as an equally tasty duck preparation that can be made a day ahead and requires only gentle warming before serving.
This traditional French method of preserving duck takes a full day to make, but requires no tending after the initial preparation. It is most often done with only the leg quarters. If you like, buy two ducks and confit only the legs and thighs, and sauté the breasts. But there’s no reason not to confit the breasts as well if you want a lot of confit. The use of sesame oil and the components of Chinese five-spice powder — ginger, cinnamon, clove, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorn (or sometimes fennel) — make this version of confit darkly aromatic and distinctly Chinese in flavor.
You can serve this just like Peking duck, with pancakes and hoisin sauce and scallions, as a main course or as the last course in a banquet. (Thinly sliced sautéed duck breast, pink in the middle with crispy skin, makes a delightful contrast in texture to the confit and, mixed with confit in pancakes, emulates the twin textures of Peking duck.) Or, for a hors d’ouevre, smear rice crackers with a bit of hoisin sauce or gingered peach jam, pile on some shredded duck, and top with thin strands of scallion. And if you can’t wait that long, eat it with a fork straight out of the pot.
- 1 duck
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 6 whole cloves garlic
- 6 quarter-sized slices fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 6 whole cloves
- 3-inch piece cinnamon stick
- 3 whole star anise
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- peanut oil, as needed
- Cut the duck into quarters — two breast quarters and two leg quarters. Trim the excess fat from the remainder of the duck and reserve it. Set aside the wings, back, neck, and giblets for stock.
- Sprinkle the meat side of the duck quarters with the kosher salt. Set them skin side down in the bottom of a heavy casserole or enameled cast iron pot. Top with the garlic, ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise and cover with the reserved fat. Pour the sesame oil over all and add enough peanut oil to just cover.
- Cover the pot and set in a 200-degree oven for 8 to 12 hours, until the meat is falling apart.
- Pull the meat off the bones with your fingers. Discard the skin and spices (the garlic is excellent smeared on crusty bread). To store, place the meat in a clean container and cover with some of the oil and rendered fat. It will keep this way in the refrigerator for a few weeks, although duck confit has never survived in my house longer than forty-eight hours.
(Photo by Kathy.)