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What's Cooking?: Peking Duck

After recuperating from the nonstop holiday festivities, I took some time to reflect on the coming New Year.  Aside from the post-holiday detox after the recent overindulgences, I decided to direct my approach toward choices I will be make this year guided by the adages “simpler is better” and “less is more.”  Next, I thought I should be a little more adventurous and expand my culinary repertoire.  This may suggest something difficult and time consuming which may contradict my first New Year’s resolution – keep it simple.  Nevertheless, I met this challenge when I chose to make Peking duck.  My husband loves duck but I never roasted one because I thought it very fatty.  When I mentioned it to my best friend, she advised me, “Order the Peking duck at a restaurant.  You’re unbelievable! (diplomatic meaning for 'you're crazy').“ 

Have you ever had Peking duck?  It is one of China’s celebration dishes served at banquets or special occasions.  If you request it at a restaurant, you have to give them 48 hours notice because the preparation of this duck requires it to be hung to dry for at least 12 hours until the skin is like parchment.  Then it is roasted standing up or hung in the oven rack for 3 hours.  What tempts the palate is not the meat of the duck but the thin crisp caramelized skin.  A piece of this beautiful glistening skin is placed in the fold of a white steamed roll or thin pancake along with a scallion brush, thinly sliced cucumber, and hoisin sauce mixture. The meat of the duck is often separated to make a stir-fried dish with mixed vegetables.  Yes, the multiple stages make it time consuming but the technique was rather simple.  And it did fulfill my first resolution.  There was no doubt in this case that “less is more.”  One excellent dish by itself was enough.  It was superb!  All I added to this meal was a plate of emerald green vegetables and golden browned potstickers.  Actually, we couldn’t even finish the dumplings.  By the way, the duck was not fatty at all and there was no splattering in the oven either. 

Of course after this triumph, I’m ready to find another new dish to prepare.  I think I’ll “travel” to India and personalize my own garam masala and curry blend, or perfect some flat bread like naan or roti, or use that leg of lamb in my freezer to make lamb biryani…is your mouth watering like mine yet?  Try making something you’ve never made before.  How about making some of the dishes from take-out menus like General Tso’s Chicken, trying clay pot cooking, delving into the world of dumplings like pierogies, Armenian cooking, dim sum foods, or scones?   I hope you will join with me in exploring some exciting cooking adventures.

Flatbreads and Flavors: Baker's Atlas by Jerry Alford and Naomi Duguid

Chinese Dim Sum by Lihua Lin

Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness

The Take-Out Menu Cookbook by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds

Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More by Carole Walters

The Armenian Table by Victorian Jenanyan Wise

Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking by Paula Wolfert

The World of Dumplings by Brian Yarvin

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Fragrant Roast Duck

Dorothy, you inspired me!  At this very moment, there's a duck hanging on my porch.  (I'd post a picture, but he looks quite immodest dangling there.) 

I'm using this recipe: Cantonese Roast Duck, and plan to roast him for dinner Friday. (I've got scallions and cucumber, but I'm also cheating a little bit-- I got the pancakes from my local Chinese restaurant.) 

The hardest part so far was getting him into the stock pot for blanching-- I was really glad I trussed him for hanging beforehand, because it made it easier to get him in the pot!  I'll let you know how he turns out.