"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Peking Duck -- a ma façon

Pekin Duck

Lately I've been been going to Chinatown alot, not only to eat, but also to shop. Plus there's a familiarity and sort of like "comfort food" welcoming me.  As I was walking around Chinatown in the 13 arrondissement,  (see my post on Chinatown), I noticed the familiar images of duck roasted to a golden brown hanging in the windows. By the way, there's a big difference between roasted duck hanging in the windows and Peking duck. Chinese roasted duck commonly hung in the windows, otherwise known as Cantonese style is prepared just that, simply roasted, whereas Peking duck preparation is distinct in that the skin is separated from the carcass and the duck is allowed to dry making the meat more dense and the skin crispier, almost like "crackling"

Lately, there's been a great deal of discussion among my friends about buying Peking duck and bringing it home and reheating it. I find buying duck somewhat tenuous, maybe it's just me, but unless you know the shop, and they know you, I always feel that I'm getting the duck that's been sitting around awhile. And, while Peking duck can be sold and served beautifully at restaurants, it is quite expensive.

Anyway, I thought, wow I used to do demos and teach how to make "Peking duck" back in the U.S., in fact it was one of my most requested classes.  So, why have I stopped making one of my favorite dishes and at a fraction of the cost. It's not difficult, all you really need is patience. So, the following is my recipe, a sort of hybrid of several recipes that I adapted for the American and French kitchen.

CANARD LAQUÉ À MA FAÇON (Peking duck my way)

  •  Preheat oven to 350F or 190C
  • 1 small to medium sized duck 
  • Electric Air pump or manual bike pump. If you don't have a bike pump, try a hair dryer, but set it on just plain "air" with no heat. (Note: in China they blow in air via their mouth, don’t recommend it unless you have very strong lungs)
  • 1 1/2 gallons water
  • 1 cup Dark vinegar (e.g., Asian Black vinegar, or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses or ¾ cup dark brown sugar. In France, "sucre de canne semoule foncé" works well
  • 1/2 cup dark soy sauce--"pearl river bridge" superior dark soy sauce works well and can also be found in France
  • 2 star anise or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt or coarse salt (Sel de Mer) found throughout France
  •  2 large "hand" ginger, washed and sliced 1/4-inch thick (skin, pieces and all--for the bath mixture)
  • 2 duck hooks or string
  • 1 tablespoon 5-spice powder (known as cinq parfum in France, can be found in most Asian markets)
  • Approximately 4-small oranges, washed and quartered, skin on
  • 1 inch peeled ginger (to be inserted into the cavity)
  • 6-12 scallions to be inserted into the cavity (ends and all)
  • 1 or 2 wooden skewers
  • 12 scallions brushes 
  • Steamed pancake or buns
  • Hoisin, plum sauce, even Tonkatsu sauce works well

Dipping duck in hot bath

In a tall stock pot (tall/big enough to submerge a duck completely), mix the water, hand ginger, vinegar, molasses or brown sugar, soy and star anise and bring to a brisk boil. Make a slit at the base of the neck of the duck to insert the air pump. While holding the rear of the duck tightly, turn on the pump to separate the skin from the meat. The air must travel all the way down the legs. Set blown up ducks aside. Mix the salt and 5-spice together and season the duck inside and out. Hook or tie the ducks by the neck and dip 3-5 times in the boiling glaze. Hang duck over sink, until most of the liquid has been drained. As it's draining, it helps to put an electric fan aimed at the duck to facilitate drying and cooling down (approximately an hour or two). I recall once at our Lake Tahoe home, since it was winter, I hung the duck on our balcony, needless to say our neighbors feared that I took up voodoo. After the duck has cooled sufficiently, then transfer to a rack over a pan and put in the refrigerator uncovered [24-hours (overnight)]. The idea is to get the skin very dry and taut which helps in getting the skin nice and crisp.

After duck has been allowed to dry efficiently, in a large bowl mix the oranges, scallions and peeled ginger. Stuff the ducks full of the mixture. Using the excess skin, take the skewers and close shut the cavity opening. Pre-heat oven to 375F (190C) degrees and place directly on the oven rack with a sheet tray of water below the rack to catch the fat. Roast approximately 1 hour, breast side up.  If you have a convention setting, use it, reduce temperature to 350F or 176C and cooking time by 10-15 minutes. A lot of fat will render off so be careful when removing. Carve up duck and serve.

The skin is the most sought after delicacy

Serve with Asian style pancakes or steamed buns (can be purchased frozen in the Asian market, and in Paris Tang Frères or PariSgelé). Although the frozen pancakes and steam buns can be micro-waved, it does dry out fast. So, if you want to micro-wave them, wet a paper towel, cover the steam buns and just "nuke" for a few seconds each.  Otherwise, use a "steamer baskets." If using a basket steamer,  place wax paper at the bottom of the steamer to prevent the pancakes/steam buns from sticking.

Place a scallion with some hoisin, plum or tonkatsu sauce on steamed bun with a piece of duck skin, and eat it like a burrito. I've also recently discovered, some dip the skin in sugar. DELICIOUS!!!


  1. Matt loves Peking duck...we'll have to make it together one night! Marie "Zabie's" kitchen would be perfect...right???

  2. Absolutely, can we can use Jeff or Aurelia's bike pump, they'd probably kill me if I did!

  3. Awwwwww. . . . . poor poor poor duckie!!!!
    But I love your blog !