Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pom Pom Peking Duck

I adore pomegranates, but until recently I had never done anything with them except toss the seeds in a winter salad along with some gorgonzola and toasted pecans (YUM!).

Just a few weeks ago, I even painted my living room pomegranate red (seriously, that's the color of the paint chip). So when I read about the POM Wonderful recipe contest in the Foodie BlogRoll newsletter, I was intrigued.

POM Wonderful is giving away $5,000 to the best blogger recipe and the Foodie Blogroll is giving away a case of POM Wonderful juice and a case of fresh pomegranates! So the big question was, what could I make with pomegranates?

Of course the Kitchen Genius was all over this idea and he thought pomegranates would go really well with duck. That night, as luck would have it, we ate dinner at the Hunan Gourmet in Orleans and saw Peking duck on the menu, served with Chinese pancakes.

Ignorant of what we were getting ourselves in to, we decided to try to make Peking duck. Our first hint that this might be a challenge came when KG called a friend of his who attended the Culinary Institute of America. His friend had never made Peking duck.

“You know, they do that really well in restaurants,” he said.

Well yes they do, but we were determined to try this at home. We read a lot of recipes and did a lot of research and combined the best of what we learned with the ingredients we liked most.

The most important thing we learned was that it’s really important to make sure the skin on the duck is DRY. As in really, really dry – before you ever cook it. The crispy skin is the Holy Grail of Peking duck and KG was determined to achieve it.

This is not a recipe for those who don’t love food because it takes about two full days for that afore mentioned drying. First KG washed the duck and dried it thoroughly with paper towels.

He decided to make his own Chinese five spice mix and toasted whole peppercorns, fennel seeds, whole cloves and star anise until they were aromatic (my kitchen still smells wonderful).

He then ground them with some cinnamon with a mortar and pestle until they were a fine powder and liberally rubbed the inside cavity with the mixture, reserving a teaspoon for my pomegranate sauce.

Here’s the weird part and the final proof to our neighbors (and children) that we are in fact as crazy as they suspected: He hung the duck outside on the front porch on a hook over a drip pan and then went up into the attic to dig out a fan, which he set up to blow on the duck.

Four hours later, we ladled some steamy hot broth with ginger and scallions over the duck repeatedly. This helps render the fat so you can get that all important crispy skin.

After the steam bath, it was back outside in the frigid air for our poor duck for another four hours. Afraid the critters would steal our meal if we left it out overnight, we put the duck in the fridge, uncovered, for the night and the whole next day.

After all that prep, the actual recipe isn’t too crazy. Basically I roasted the duck on a rack for a little over an hour, turning it three times. In the meantime I made my pomegranate sauce and the pancakes for wrapping.

After the duck was done, KG carefully removed the skin and put it back on the rack in the baking pan and broiled it for another five minutes, because really that skin just can’t be crispy enough. While he carved the duck, I prepped the toppings.

This is a fun meal where everyone makes their own little duck wraps. The basic procedure is to take a pancake and place about five slices of duck in the center. Top with one or two strips of crispy skin. Drizzle with one tablespoon pomegranate sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and fresh pomegranate seeds. Fold and enjoy!

The Recipe:

Pom Pom Duck

Preparing the Duck:


5 pound duck
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon star anise
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

10 cups water
1/4 sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup sliced scallions
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Madeira wine
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

Wash duck and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Heat peppercorns, fennel seed, cloves and star anise in cast iron skillet over medium heat until aromatic. Using a mortar and pestle, grind spices with cinnamon until fine powder. Coat inside of duck with three tablespoons of mixture and reserve remaining spices. Hang duck outside over a drip pan with fan blowing on it for four hours.

In a large Dutch oven, heat ten cups of water, ginger, scallions, honey, wine, vinegar and corn starch mixture until boiling. Place duck in a large strainer over a second Dutch oven size pan and ladle boiling mixture over duck. When all the mixture is gone, transfer pans and reheat water mixture and ladle over duck again. Repeat two more times. Hang duck outside with drip pan and fan for another four hours. Place in refrigerator uncovered overnight and all the next day until ready to cook.

Put duck, breast side up on a rack over baking dish. Roast in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn upside down and roast another 30 minutes. Turn duck again and roast for 10 more minutes. Take out of oven and remove skin. Place skin on rack and broil for another five minutes until extra crispy. Meanwhile carve meat off duck in slices and transfer to a platter. Slice skin in thin strips and serve with Chinese pancakes, pomegranate sauce, scallions and pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate Sauce:

2 1/2 pomegranates, cut in half, seeds removed
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice mix

Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring frequently. Strain mixture through fine sieve strainer, pressing on seeds with back of spoon to remove all the juice and put juice back in saucepan. Heat to boil. Meanwhile mix 2 tablespoons corn starch with 4 tablespoons cold water until smooth. Add to syrup in pan and mix until thickened.


Four cups flour
2 cups boiling water

Add boiling water to flour and stir quickly until dough comes together. Knead dough until it is smooth and let rest 30 minutes. If dough is still to wet to work with add more flour as necessary, up to one cup. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out circles with 3-inch round cookie cutter. Roll each circle to about 6 inches and 1/16 inch thick. Heat non-stick skillet and drizzle with sesame seed oil. Cook pancakes in small batches until firm and lightly brown on both sides, about five minutes. Stack pancakes on plate and cover with plastic wrap to keep warm.

To serve:

Put in small bowls on table:
Pomegranate sauce
5 scallions, cleaned and sliced
Seeds from remaining 1/2 pomegranate
Put duck meat and skin on a platter
Put pancake plate on table

Take a pancake and put five slices of duck in the center. Top with one or two strips of crispy skin. Drizzle with one tablespoon pomegranate sauce. Sprinkle with scallions and fresh pomegranate seeds. Fold and enjoy!

For a printable recipe click here


Deb in Hawaii said...

Incredible looking and sounding recipe! Great job! Good luck in the contest--you guys may have a winner here!

Michele said...

Best of luck in the contest with your Pom Pom Peking Duck! Peking Duck is so much work to do at home. I've attempted it once. Even though mine turned out delicious, I've decided that it is much easier for Phil to pick a duck on the way home in the evening. We have so many fantastic Asian markets that make delicious Peking duck. It's almost a shame to have to go through the long prep at home when all we have to do is pick from one of the lovely ducks hanging in the market's restaurant.
I agree that pomegranates would go perfectly with duck. The tart sweetness of the fruit would pair nicely with the crisp skin and tender meat of the duck.
We will be trying your pomegranate sauce very soon...with a crispy duck from the Hong Kong Supermarket. :-)

vanillasugarblog said...

oh that should win! those flavor combo's alone are a winner.
this looks insanely good.
hey, if you guys are ever up this way go eat at Way Ho restaurant right at the bourne bridge rotary. really good food

Laurie said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Deb!

Michele - it did occur to me that this is alot of work for one dinner and I love your idea of sprucing up store bought crispy duck.

The stores on Cape are a bit bereft of exotic ingredients, but I thought this would be really good with a roasted chicken too - and alot quicker to make. Loved the pomegranite sauce!

Laurie said...

Thanks for the tip, Dawn! Good Chinese is hard to find down at this end of the Cape.

Live.Love.Eat said...

Wow. This looks delicious. I am going to make a duck soon but nothing this hard :)

maybelle's mom said...

That is a wonderful entry.

Rachel said...

Wow, what a recipe. Sounds like a winner!

I enjoyed your article about Tony Horwitz. Now I'll have to chase down his new book. I enjoyed Blue Latitudes and Confederates in the Attic. Wife Geraldine Brooks is no slouch either. Loved "A Year of Wonders" about the Black Plague in a village in medieval England.

Hope you are enjoying La Cucina by Lily Prior and that you will be inspired to whip up something wonderful for Cook the Books.

Alicia Foodycat said...

I cannot believe you made Peking Duck from scratch. You are amazing! And adding the pomegranate is such a brilliant idea - the perfect flavour and texture match.

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