A fun and flavourful meal that’s sure to impress
While I initially created this menu in honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, it’s one I now plan to serve regularly. It’s one of those meals where each component is delicious on its own, yet in combination the flavours absolutely shine and though it’s impressive enough for a dinner party, it’s simple enough for a weeknight too. The Chinese five-spice powder used to season the duck typically contains cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns; if you don’t want to make your own blend, you can get a great one by mail order from Cardamom and Cloves. The scallion pancakes are based on a traditional Chinese dish, but I’ve simplified it to make this quick version. The salad is based on something called Yusheng which is very popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia during Chinese New Year celebrations. While there are a number of bold flavours in this meal, there is no strong acidic component, which made wine pairing much easier. I served it with Southbrook Vineyards’ 2015 Triomphe Pinot Noir and it was absolute perfection, with the wine’s bold cherry notes a fantastic match with the duck.
- 1 boneless duck breast (approximately .5 pound)
- 2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice blend
Sauce for Duck
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons plum sauce
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1/2 cup shredded daikon
- 1/2 cup shredded watermelon radish or white turnip
- 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
- 1 pomelo or two limes, segmented and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup water plus 3 tablespoons
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions (green onions)
- Canola oil, for cooking
- Prepare the duck by taking a sharp knife and scoring the skin side of the duck breast into a 1/4 inch cross-hatch pattern, being careful not to cut through to the meat. Sprinkle the five-spice powder onto both sides of the duck breast and rub it in with your fingers. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least one hour or up to eight hours.
- Prepare the sauce by combining honey and soy sauce in a microwave-safe jug. Cook over high heat 1 minute; stir and cook for 1 minute more. Stir, then add water and stir until smooth. The sauce should be thick but pourable. Set aside.
- Prepare the salad by whisking together the cinnamon, plum sauce and canola oil; set aside. Prepare the vegetables and fruit for the salad and put them in a broad, shallow bowl. Put the ginger and peanuts in small bowls and set aside.
- Prepare the pancake batter by whisking together the egg and water in a medium bowl. Add flour and salt and whisk until smooth. Stir in scallions and set aside (cover and refrigerate if not cooking pancakes within 1 hour).
- About 25 minutes before you are ready to serve, preheat oven to 300F. Heat a small, heavy frying pan (cast iron is ideal) over medium heat. Add the duck, skin-side down to the pan and let cook slowly so the fat renders.
- While duck is cooking, heat a second, larger frying pan over medium heat. Add just enough oil to coat the bottom then pour in pancake batter, about 1/3 cup at a time (to make pancakes approximately 4 inches in diameter). Cook until nicely browned on the bottom (about 2 – 3 minutes), then flip and cook on the other side. Transfer cooked pancakes to a baking tray and put in preheated oven. Repeat with remaining batter.
- Once duck fat has been rendered and skin is uniformly crispy (this should take about 15 minutes), use tongs to flip duck breast onto one of the sides; cook for 1 minute, then flip to other side for 1 minute. Lastly, flip back to skin side up and cook the bottom of the breast for 2 minutes. Use a digital thermometer to check the temperature – the ideal finished temperature is 145F. If more time is needed, flip it again so it is skin side down and watch closely, checking temperature often, to be sure you don’t overcook it. When duck is at desired temperature, remove from pan and let rest for 2 – 3 minutes before slicing thinly.
- Finish the salad by drizzling the plum sauce and oil mixture over the top then toss to combine well. Sprinkle ginger and peanuts over top.
- To serve, put three pancakes on each plate. Fan out slices of duck over the pancakes, then drizzle a little bit of the honey-soy sauce mixture over the duck. Add salad on the side.
Serves 2; can easily be multiplied.