Crisp Skinned Duck

I spoke to my darling mother, Superwoman, this morning and was immediately berated: “you haven’t updated the blog since Tuesday! What’s going on?” Sorry Superwoman. Clearly I have a long way to go until I am at her dizzying heights of productivity. I trust the rest of you didn’t feel the absence quite as keenly.

Thursday night’s dinner was crisp skinned duck with (meant to be Sichuan) pepper-salt from Stephanie Alexander’s A Cook’s Companion. I had bought a duck on the weekend from Farm Direct and was looking forward to doing something yummy with it. Of course, Stephanie wanted me to marinade the duck for 8 hours, but as it was already 7pm when I began, that step was going to have to be overlooked. Another minor amendment was that I couldn’t find Sichuan pepper and didn’t have a chance to pop into China Town – I didn’t think Sichuanpepper would be that integral to a recipe entitled “crisp skinned duck with Sichuan pepper-salt” so didn’t worry too much. The best I could do on short notice was Wayanad Peppercorns from Waitrose (grown in the Wayanad district of Kerala, in south west India [getting close to China], “these peppercorns are intensely spicy with a slight citrus flavour”). I sharpened my knife and got to work segmenting my duck (which by the way was an Aylesbury duck from Richard Waller, Chesham). I firstly cut down either side of the backbone, cut/chopped/hacked off the legs and wings, then sliced along the rib cage to remove the breasts.

 

To make the “Sichuan” pepper-salt cook 1T Sichuan peppercorns and 1tsp salt in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat for 3 minutes, shaking and stirring until the mixture starts to smoke and become fragrant (or in my case, the peppercorns pop into the air and hit you in the head). Grind the mix in a mortar and pestle (if you don’t have one but are hoping desperately to be given one for Christmas, just use a spoon to flatten and crush the peppercorns in the frying pan. You now need to marinade the duck, Stephanie recommends 2 hours and would be super impressed with 8 hours. But we can’t all be Stephanie’s favourite, and sometimes 15 minutes just has to suffice. Marinade is:

 

  • 1/4 cup finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp of the Sichuan pepper-salt that you’ve already made
Massage marinade into the duck pieces. They will love it, and therefore give what you’re about to do to them next. After marinading, turn oven to 200 degrees C. Heat vegetable oil (enough to give a depth of about 1/2-1cm) to 180 degrees C (or just guess when it’s really really hot) in a wok or deep sided pot. Carefully lower the pieces of duck, skin side down, into the oil. There will be a fantastic splutter and a mouthwatering smell. Cook for 5 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden.
Place duck pieces skin side up into a baking tray and roast for 30 minutes (my duck pieces were rather small, so I roasted mine for closer to 15-20minutes – in any event, they are done when a skewer slips easily through the meat and only a pale pink juice escapes). If you have large pieces you can slice them. Serve with a bowl of the Sichuan pepper-salt to sprinkle on the duck, lime wedges, steamed greens and rice if you like. We loved munching on this delicious duck and licking the yummy pepper-salt from our fingers. Next time, 8 hours and real Sichuan peppercorns (and maybe even a mortar and pestle).

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