I don’t know if it was because Mock Peking Duck was first course or because it was the best course, but everyone one particularly loved the warm crisp duck skin nestled in with the cool cucumbers, crisp green onions, and the sesame-tinged sweet hoisin.
Coaxing duck skin off a carcass can be a little challenging. It slips off easily around the leg and thigh but you’ll need to use a sharp knife to help peel it off the back. If the skin rips, don’t worry. In the end it gets cut into thin strips and doesn’t show.
Between the blanching step and the roasting step, the skin shrinks a lot, but you don’t need much of this rich part of the duck to fill a pancake. Don’t toss the duck fat! Even if you don’t use it to confit the legs and thighs, you’ll surely use it at some point for roasting potatoes.
The pancakes are just downright fun to make. As I read the instructions for making them, I had my doubts about whether the sandwiched pancakes would really pull apart after they come off the griddle but, in fact, they do. The original instructions offered the microwave as one of the ways to heat the pancakes before serving. I found them chewy, so I’ve only offered the steaming method here.
For the test run dinner we drank a Conundrum with this course. For the big dinner, my friend chose a 2008 Kistler Vine Hill Chardonnay, a rich, oak-y wine that paired well, not only with the rich duck skin and the sweet hoisin in these pancakes, but also the soup course, which I’ll talk about tomorrow.
For more about the five-course duck dinner of which this recipe was a part, click here.
Mock Peking Duck
Inspiration for this recipe came from Jacque Pepin’s Cooking with Claudine (KQED Books and Tapes 1996)
Skin (except breast skin) of 2 ducks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons water
4 large scallions, halved crosswise and cut into 16 thin
1/2 small seedless cucumber, cut into 16 strips
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring 1 gallon of water to boil in a large pot. Add duck skin and cook, turning frequently, until water just returns to a simmer. Transfer skin, flesh side down and as flat as possible, to a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt and brush with the sugar water. Roast until crisp and brown, 45 to 55 minutes.
Remove skin from pan and reserve fat. (Can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated up to 5 days. Fat can be covered and refrigerated for months.
For the pancakes: Process flour and water in a food processor until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer dough to a work surface, kneading and then rolling it into a 6- by 2-inch log; cut into 16 discs. Brush 8 of the discs with a little sesame oil; top each with one of the remaining rounds, pressing each into a 3- to 4-inch “sandwich.” Brush work surface with a little of the sesame oil and roll each pancake into a 7-inch disk.
Meanwhile heat a medium skillet over strong medium heat. Working one dough round at a time, cook them, turning only once, until spotty brown on both sides, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes total. As pancakes come out of the skillet, transfer them to a work surface, pulling them apart as quickly as soon as you are able to form 2 pancakes. Fold each pancake, crusty side in, into quarters. Arrange the pancakes, slightly overlapping, on a plate. Cover with plastic until ready to serve. (Can be stored in a gallon-size zipper-lock bag and refrigerated for a couple of days)
For the sauce: Mix hoisin, sesame oil and water in a small bowl; set aside.
When ready to serve, cut duck skin into thin strips (and if it’s been refrigerated, heat in a 300 degree oven until crisp, about 15 minutes). Place plate of pancakes on a steamer basket set over a pan of boiling water. Cover and steam until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes.
On each plate, arrange 2 of the folded pancakes, a portion of the duck skin, cucumbers, scallions, cilantro and little dish of the sauce (or pass the sauce separately). Serve immediately.