In the United States, the popularity of duck is always optimistically characterized as “growing.” It seems some home cooks are hesitant about cooking duck because of its fattiness (and yet pork ribs and ground chuck fly off supermarket shelves, go figure) or because they just don’t know how to cook it.
The Chinese, on the other hand, love duck and have done so for some 4,000 years. In fact, per capita duck consumption in some Western countries is directly linked to the size of their Chinese immigrant populations. (Not so with France, where they, too, love duck and give the Chinese a run for their money consumption-wise.)
Things turn steamy. The Chinese also know lots of ways to prepare duck. As I searched for ideas, one approach that kept turning up was steaming the duck before roasting it. Health-conscious Western cooks have been steaming vegetables like crazy lately and will even steam a piece of fish now and again, but meat, not so much. Throughout much of Asia, however, steaming meat is a common cooking technique, often as a first step before roasting, frying or grilling.
Steaming the duck leg quarters for this recipe renders some of the fat, makes the flesh moist and tender and, most important, infuses it throughout with the flavors of the aromatics used – fresh ginger, garlic, green onions, star anise, and Chinese five-spice powder. Roasting the steamed duck with a lacquer of honey, soy sauce and rice vinegar (OK, in looking for a descriptive finish here and remembering the duck, my mouth is watering – I think that covers it).
Chinese Duck Pasta with Mushrooms
This dish involves more steps than many of my recipes, but everything is easy to do, and you can cook the duck ahead if you like, to simplify things.