or New Year's resolution #1 - take up smoking
or how to smoke your duck and eat it
or 10 simple steps to smoking your duck
ok, I'll just get on with it, shall I?
For a while now, I've been following @paulscooking on Twitter. More to the point, perhaps, I've been checking out the recipes on his website - an eclectic mix of British and Asian cooking, with some other randoms thrown in once in a while. Finally, some time in November, I got around to making his storming Tau Yew Bak (braised belly pork with star anise and soy sauce) which was an unqualified and utterly delicious success.
Shortly after that, I bought some duck legs. Good plan, you might think, except that I couldn't find a recipe that really tickled my feathers, despite the fact that I have eleventy million recipe books.
But wait! An embryo of an idea fluttered across my brain (mmm, maybe that image doesn't work too well after all). And then and there, I hatched a plan.
EMERGENCY TWEET TO PAUL! EMERGENCY TWEET TO PAUL!
And, like the good man he is, he came up with a quacker of a recipe for me. Smoked duck! Ah, of course, I said. Sichuan smoked duck. Of course. Erm, but I've never smoked anything in my life before. (Honest, Dad.) So, er, how?
Don't panic, said Paul. I'll email the details over to you. (It wasn't on his website at the time.)
And so he did. A few helpful other tweeters offered their top (wing) tips, in the meantime (copious quantities of silver foil being the standout one - thank you to all those concerned), and I was ready to fly.
This, my friends, is what happened next. Like I said up there ^^^, it's a case of how to smoke your duck in 10 easy steps. And they must be easy, because I managed it. Not only managed it, but managed not to (a) smoke the house out or (b) to burn it down, either. In my book, that's a success.
Here we go, then. First, marinade your duck legs:
Next, assemble your smoking ingredients. You can use any tea, but I think it's preferable to go with something that has a distinct flavour, such as Earl Grey or Lapsang Souchong. I opted for the former.
Then, construct your smoker. Line everything with foil - you don't want a ruined pan. You also need a rack or similar to go over the smoking ingredients. We don't have a rack of the right size, so I, er, cut out the wire mesh from one of those anti-splatter thingummyjigs. We never used it anyway. Worked a treat, like so.
By now, it's time to get the smoking things smoking. Light hob, place pan over, and wait for little *pfffft* sounds to emanate from said pan, and for smoke signals to appear.
Look! Look - over there! Over there, at the back, towards the right! SMOKE!
Inhale. Go on. The tea, spices, sugar, and bay leaves give off the most gorgeous (and somewhat addictive, I should add) sweet-scented fragrant aroma. Lovely stuff.
Shake yourself out of your aromatic reverie, and grab your duck legs, plunge them in boiling water very briefly, dry them off, and load them onto the rack. They might not look very appealing at the moment, but stick with it. They will do soon, honest.
To avert almost certain disaster to you and your pan, cover the pan with more foil, and then put the lid over that.
You're on your way. Now all you have to do is wait anywhere between about 30 and 50 minutes, depending on the size of the legs.
At some point, of course, you're going to find it hard to resist peeking (Peking?) at the duck to make sure all's going swimmingly.
OK, yep, think it's plenty smokey in there, ta.
Just don't do that stage too often, ok?
Before long, you'll have fully smoked (and thoroughly cooked, for those of you who might be wondering) duck legs, hot off the rack:
No, I know they don't look wildly different from the pic taken at the start. But they are smoked and cooked, I promise. All you need to do now is to inject (not literally) a little colour into them, and some crispiness to the skin.
For this, you need to take your life into your hands again if you don't have a deep-fat fryer. For those of you who do, well, you've got it easy.
Alternative to deep-fat fryer: find pan. Fill with some kind of vegetable oil (not groundnut). Heat until very hot. Plunge your legs in. NO! Not those! The DUCK legs. Not yours. Jeez.
... and let them bubble away until they're a lovely golden brown.
At that point, all you have to do is drain them ....
... and they're ready to serve! Paul suggests an accompanying sauce based largely on hoisin. All I'll say at this point is I think I picked the wrong brand, because it was far too overwhelming for the duck. Next time round, I'll ask Paul first.
What I can say is that the duck was lovely - a tad overcooked for my taste, so I'll smoke for a shorter time next time, but beautifully fragrant and gently full of the flavour of the tea and other aromatics. Definitely a winner, and a recipe to play with again and again with variations on the theme.
(Just make sure you have lots of foil, and an airtight seal. If you don't, prepare to get friendly with your local fire brigade.)
For the full recipe, check it out on Paul's website. And have a good look around while you're there - you're bound to find lots of other stuff to tempt you.
And Paul? I owe you one. Thank you! It was a quacker!