I recently received an incredible package of local, humanely raised duck products (whole duck with its head and feet intact and duck breasts) from Crescent Duck*, located in Long Island, NY. Crescent Duck Farm grows only premium Genuine Long Island ducklings. What is particularly great about Crescent Duck Farm is it’s a family owned farm since 1908.
The birds are fed only natural grains without hormones or artificial growth stimulants. What I’m really excited is the fact I get to cook with the Chinese style whole duck since type of duck is pretty hard to come by that is raised the way Crescent Duck has. Since Chinese (or Lunar) New Year is around the corner, why not start the celebration by cooking tea smoked duck at home?
One of the most important food symbolism in Chinese New Year is to have and eat a whole animal, whether it may be fish, chicken or even pig, as it represents completeness and prosperity.
My recipe to cook tea smoked duck is a two-part process. I cooked the “master sauce” or lo sui (鹵水) to steep and marinate the raw duck then smoke it to a gorgeous lacquered bronze.
Whole Tea Smoked Duck
6 pound whole duck (cleaned and removed of its internal organs, preferred with the head and feet on)
“Master Sauce” (also known as lo sui (鹵水))
25g Spice packets filled with cinnamon, fennel seeds, ginger, cumin, cloves (you should be able to find it in Asian grocery stores)
5 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons rock sugar
1 teaspoon sweet dark soy
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 ounce ginger
1 dried tangerine peel
5 star anise
2 teaspoons Cognac
1/2 cup Qi Men Red (祁门红茶) whole leaf tea
1/2 cup Dragon Well (西湖龙井) whole leaf tea
1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup dark brown sugar
Make the “master sauce” and marinate
Take a large stockpot and fill it with all of the ingredients of the “master sauce” and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, let it simmer for 30 minutes to let it brew. Turn off the heat and let it cool until it is at room temperature. Once it is cool, carefully place the duck in the liquid, cover, and place it in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.
Remove the duck from the refrigerator and take it out from “master sauce” and let it hang dry overnight so the skin would tighten up. (One way you can do this is to take a large sheet pan that is be a little longer than the length of the duck, place a clean baking sheet rack on top of the sheet pan, and place the duck on top to let it dry in the refrigerator.)
To smoke the duck
Take a medium sized mixing bowl and dump all of the tea smoke ingredients (the teas, rice and sugar) and mix until it’s well combined. Take that mixture and dump it onto the center of a sheet of aluminum foil (about 8-10 inches long) and wrap it into a “beggar purse” shape that it has a vent to release the smoke but still hold the contents while it is on the hot coals.
Heat one third of your grill until it reaches 300°F. Place the tea bundle directly on the hot coals and place an aluminum pan next to the coals (the rest of the two thirds of the grill) it so it could catch the duck fat. Place the grill rack on top and set the duck directly above the aluminum pan. Cover and let it smoke at 300°F for about 2 hours or until medium rare. (If you do use an instant read thermometer with a probe inserted at the thickest part of the duck breast, it will be in the 125° to 130°F range.) Remove the duck from the grill and let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes before you serve.