Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Howard the Duck (Peking Duck Recipe Inspired by Flower Drum)

Part of being a well rounded epicurean, or to use a cricket term, an "all rounder" (which Shane Watson is not) means that you need to be able to cook food and prepare beverages at the same standard that you come to expect in decent restaurants. In the case of Beppi's in Sydney you really only need to learn to eat with rodents off the floor and hold your stomach in pain all night but for us civilised epicureans we demand quality, cleanliness and of course taste.

On occasion, I decide to cook. Yesterday was a good day as I was awaiting feedback from a client who is travelling. Also it is raining raining in Melbourne, what better way to spend the afternoon than cooking, drinking and telling tall tales.

After experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Peking Duck and proper pancakes in and around Sydney and Melbourne, around a month ago I undertook a task to make the dish myself. My first attempt was spot on, so yesterday I attempted my second one and in conjunction with the epicurean emo, a suitable amount of food was prepared and beverages consumed. My offering will be inspired by the Flower Drum in Melbourne and also what surprisingly is served at Mr Chow's Chinese Restaurant in Millers Point Sydney.

Anticipating the "day of the duck" I ventured to the Costco in Docklands to purchase a bird. I was very disappointed to discover that they sold out. I wandered around New Quay and Docklands only to be told by many shop keepers that they do not sell duck. One had no idea what a butcher was and one thought I was crazy.

Sadly for my savings account, this meant that I need to make a journey to the Prahran Markets. I really fancy these markets especially since there is an Essential Ingredient in the complex. I tend to go a bit mad around all of the fresh produce however I I vowed to keep focused and get what is required for the relaxing lunch and dinner and home and even went so far as to leave the credit cards at home so that Gail Kelly did not end up winning in the end.

I found a 2.5kg duck from the poultry butcher. The wrapper vaguely reminded me of the one that is sold at Costco however for $22, it was good value. The last duck that I purchased was a mere 2.2kg runt but I believe i paid around $16.

Some yellow fin tuna was purchased from the fishmonger. Lunch will be a yellow fin tuna tartare that is inspired by one of my many visits to FINS Restaurant in Kingscliff on the Tweed Coast of NSW. I always joked when I would frequent this restaurant that it was my favourite restaurant in Queensland. The servers would would bemused and advise me that I was in NSW, just south of the Queensland border. I would respond and say "exactly" and give a wry smile. For those that live in Queensland, including my learned friend that attended Movida with me, we know that the fine food and beverage scene has indeed evolved in Queensland (Brisbane) over the last few years but it still has a fair way to go. I would always look forward to by periodic jaunts across the border into NSW to attend FINS and enjoy everything on offer, multiple times, whilst living in Brisbane. Lunch is inspired by their tuna tartare entry which I would eat not only as an entry but also as a dessert. It is just so good! Now I am motivated to book a flight to Byron and get my arse back there to celebrate the new season. It is hard to leave Melbourne though unless I really have to.

The following is a timeline on how I went about preparing this duck.

11:15 AM - Undertake a journey to the Prahran Market. Enjoy a bottle of Asahi. Purchase a duck and other ingredients. I also ventured into the Essential Ingredient to pick up some corn tortillas and adobo for some tacos that I intend to make tomorrow.

12:30 PM - Open another Asahi and commence the preparation of the duck. The full recipe includes:
  1. A 2.2kg-2.5kg duck
  2. (4) tablespoons of honey
  3. (4) tablespoons of sherry
  4. (1) tablespoon of white vinegar
  5. Spring onions
  6. Sesame oil
  7. Hoisin sauce
  8. 1/2 cup plain flour
  9. (2) tablespoons of corn flour
  10. 1/4 cup milk
  11. (2) eggs
  12. (2) tablespoons of butter
  • Remove the duck from the package and clean it with warm water,
  • Fill a wok with six (6) cups of water and bring it to a boil,
  • Add four (4) tablespoons of honey, four (4) tablespoons of sherry and one (1) tablespoon of white vinegar and allow the mixture to boil for a minute,
  • cut the tips of the wings (at the elbow) off of the duck and dispose of the parts,
  • Place the duck, breast side down in the wok. Spoon the liquid over the top of the duck and continue the task for about 10 minutes. This allows the duck to become moist and absorb the sherry, honey and a little of the white vinegar,
  • Turn the duck over and let the back of the duck rest in the wok for a few minutes,
  • Remove the duck and hang it up so it can dry. As I can not conveniently hang the duck up anywhere in my kitchen, I let it rest in a large bowl. If you are able to hang it up, do so. Make sure that all of the water is out of the cavity,
  • Let the duck dry for around six (6) hours.
6:30 PM - Preheat the oven to 180c. Fill a drip tray or drip pan with about 5cm of water. Grease a baking rack with olive or canola oil. Place the drip pan or drip tray at the bottom of the oven. Place the duck breast-side up on the baking rack and place in the oven above the drip pan and begin baking the beast. The idea is that as the duck cooks, it will drip into the tray. The added water in the tray will keep the oven very humid and the duck thus moist. Bake the duck in this position for 40 minutes.

6:35 PM - Cut the tips off of the spring onions and then cut the stalks off of the actual onion. Cut the onions lengthwise twice so each onion will result into four thinner onions. Place some ice cubes and water into a bowl and place the cut spring onions in the ice water and place in the refrigerator.

6:45 PM - Time to make the pancakes.

  1. Combine the flour, corn flour, 1/4 cup water, milk, eggs and (1) tablespoon of butter in a food processor and process the mixture until it is smooth. Pour into a jug and let stand covered for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and brush in the remaining (1) tablespoon of butter. Pour a tablespoon of the batter into the frying pan and spread it to form a pancake. Cook for 2 minutes and flip and then cook for another 1 minute. Repeat this process until all of the batter has been used.

7:10 PM - Flip the duck on the tray. Be mindful that when you pull out the baking tray the duck will no doubt drip on the floor so pull the drip tray and the baking tray out at the same time to avoid a mess. Let the duck bake with its breast down for 30 minutes. Continue to make pancakes. Drink a beer.

7:40 PM - Flip the duck yet again. It should be breast-side up now. Drink a beer.

7:45 PM - In a bowl, add equal parts of hoisin sauce and sesame oil and mix. Depending on how you prefer the taste, you may want to add a bit of water to the sauce however experiment until you find a consistency that you fancy.

8:10 PM - Inspect the duck. It should be golden brown by now. It would be wise to keep an eye on the duck after you flip it the second time as all ovens act a bit differently. Once the duck turns golden brown, it is time to remove it from the oven. Open another beer and begin the process of carving the duck.

8:30 PM - You should now have a carved duck, pancakes, a hoisin/sesame sauce and after removing the spring onions from the refrigerator, you can combine all of the ingredients into the pancakes and have an awesome dinner.

I was distracted by the beverages and the awesomeness of the duck so I forgot to take photos this time. The photos below are from the same recipe and process from when I tried this originally last month: