The pre-prep when making Peking duck, one of the epitomes of Chinese cuisine, includes pumping it with air, tying off the neck, and fanning it for hours as the skin dries. This process is so complex and arcane that culinary war stories hardly ever mention how the duck is roasted. This recipe doesn’t skimp on any steps and will no doubt provide you with your own battle tales, but the difference here is what happens to the flavor when you roast the duck over coals. The skin crisps like a single layer of lacquer, and the meat gets a smoky nuance that deepens its traditional salty-sweet profile. The recipe calls for serving it traditionally with hoisin sauce and pancakes. If you want to skip that presentation, the duck is delicious all by itself.
Prep: 30 minutes (plus 5 minutes for Peking crackle)
Dry: 2 hours
Grill: About 1 hour.
BBQ TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
– Small bicycle pump with a needle attachment, or a marinade injector
– Heavy-duty cotton kitchen twine
– Electric fan
– Roasting rack
– Disposable aluminum roasting pan
– Long-handled basting brush.
– To make a simpler version of Peking duck, see the Grilled Peking-Style Chicken.
Makes about 12 crepes
¾ cup flour
¾ cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
No-stick spray oil for coating pan.
1. Mix the flour, water, and salt with a whisk in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Set aside for at least 20 minutes.
2. Heat a small, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Spray very lightly with oil. Make crepes in the hot skillet by pouring a few tablespoons of batter into the skillet. Swirl to cover the bottom of the skillet, and pour the excess batter back into the bowl. Cook for about 30 seconds; the edges of the crepe will dry and it will be set across the surface. Flip the crêpe and cook for 5 or 10 seconds. Slip onto a plate and make another crepe. Don’t spray the skillet with more oil until the crepes start to stick slightly, after about 6 crepes. Keep the crepes covered until ready to serve.
Indirect heat, medium-high (350° to 375°F)
3- or 4-burner grill – middle burner(s) off
2-burner grill – 1 side off
Clean, oiled grate
Indirect heat, medium ash
Split charcoal bed (about 2 dozen coals per side)
Heavy-duty drip pan set between banks of charcoal
Clean, oiled grate on medium setting
Indirect heat, medium ash
12-by-12-inch bed, 3 inches deep
Clean, oiled grate set 4 inches above the fire.
INGREDIENTS (MAKES 4 SERVINGS)
1 Long Island duckling, about 4½ pounds, visible fat removed
1 cup Peking Crackle
12 crepes (recipe at left)
2 scallions, roots trimmed, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce.
1. Extend the plunger of the bicycle pump and insert the needle just under the skin at the neck end of the duck. Depress the plunger, and the skin around the needle will puff up. Continue to pump air under the duck skin in the same way until the skin has been separated from the meat all over the breast and legs (see illustration).
2. Heat a kettle of water to boiling. Put the duck, breast-side up, in a strainer set in a sink. Pour the boiling water over the duck. Hook a chopstick under the wings of the duck to hold them away from the body. Tie a string around the neck and hang the duck by the string over a sink or a large drip pan. Put an electric fan in front of the duck and blow air directly on it for about an hour to dry the skin. 3. Brush the duck with half of the Peking crackle and dry for another hour.
4. While the duck is drying, prepare the crepes.
5. Heat the grill as directed.
6. Put the duck, breast-side up, on a rack set in a disposable roasting pan. Put the pan on the grill away from the heat, cover the grill, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F about 1 hour, basting with the remaining glaze halfway through. If your grill has an external thermometer, it should stay at around 375°F during that time.
7. Remove the duck to a cutting board. Carve it as you would a chicken (see page 184). Lift the skin from the meat and cut it into strips. Cut the meat into large, bite-size chunks. Arrange the meat on a platter scattered with scallions and strips of crisp skin. Serve with the hoisin sauce and crêpes for rolling.