Traditional Peking Duck is quite an involved process. A white Peking duck, with head and feet still attached, is inflated with a pump or other object, separating the skin from the body. Then the skin is scalded with boiling water to make it drier and tauter, brushed with molasses, and left to dry for a half day. After drying, the duck is hung by its neck in a large, hot oven where it is roasted until the meat is done, the fat has fully rendered and the skin is quite crispy. It’s easy to see why this dish is not often made at home.
While not traditional, this easy to-prepare recipe will bring the flavors of Peking duck to your kitchen. Be sure to use the freshest and thinnest flour tortillas available for the pancakes, or substitute crêpes if desired. Be sure to get the skin really crispy, and make certain that each roll has both meat and crispy skin.
Cut the white portion and thick (solid) green portion of each scallion into 1-inch long sections. Using the tip of a sharp knife, thinly slash one end of each of the sections at 1/8-inch intervals, making the slashes about 1/4-inch long. Immerse the scallions in a bowl of ice water; refrigerate until the slashed portions curl into "brushes."
Use a 2 1/4-inch round cutter to cut out 24 circles from the tortillas. These circles will be the "pancakes" for the Peking duck. Wrap the pancakes in aluminum foil, and set aside.
Trim the duck breasts to remove any silverskin or excess fat. Using a sharp knife, score the duck fat on each breast in a cross-hatch pattern, cutting all the way through the fat, but not into the skin. (Note: This will help the fat render and make the skin crisp.)
Brush each breast on both sides with sesame oil; season well with salt and pepper. Place breasts on the wire rack, skin-side up, and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the duck is roasting, combine the honey, soy sauce and 5-spice powder in a small bowl; whisk to combine.
Remove duck from oven, and brush the skin with honey mixture. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Return duck to oven, and continue to cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, about 15 minutes more. Brush duck skin with the honey mixture halfway through the remaining cooking time.
Remove duck from oven, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. While duck is cooling, place the aluminum foil packet of pancakes in the oven to heat through. Drain scallions, and pat dry with paper towels.
Carve duck breasts crosswise into thin slices. Spread each of the pancakes with about 1/4 teaspoon plum sauce, and place 1 to 2 thin slices of duck in the center. Fold the sides of the pancake in, enclosing the duck. Place a scallion brush on top of each closed pancake (the scallion is on the outside of the tortilla, not inside with the duck), and use a bamboo pick (or frill pick) to skewer through the scallion and the pancake. This will keep the pancake closed around the duck and hold the scallion in place.
Place on a platter, and serve immediately. Additional plum sauce may be served on the side for dipping, if desired.
Tips and Techniques
* Peking or Muscovy duck breasts are typically sold as whole (double-sided) boneless breasts with the skin on. Cut the whole breast into two pieces, each weighing about 6-ounces.
** Plum sauce is available in the Asian section of most grocery stores.
Makes 24 canapés
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