Chinese duck pasta with mushrooms
Steaming duck legs with ginger, garlic, star anise and Chinese five-spice powder before roasting them infuses the meat with flavor and moisture for this Chinese pasta dish.
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2 duck leg quarters, about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds (see Kitchen Notes)
1-1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra
1 teaspoon sugar
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into 6 slices
6 cloves garlic, 4 thinly sliced and 2 minced
2 whole star anise
2 large green onions, divided
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh or reconstituted mushrooms, sliced (see Kitchen Notes)
scant 1 cup chopped shallots (or yellow onions)
freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Chinese noodles (or other ribbon pasta – see Kitchen Notes)
Prepare the duck. Trim away excess fat from duck leg quarters (reserve it to render fat over low heat in a small sauce pan for future use – don’t dare throw it away). Combine Chinese five-spice powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub all over duck. Place duck, ginger slices and the four cloves of sliced garlic into a zippered plastic bag. Marinate, chilled, for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
With aluminum foil, make 2 rimmed trays just large enough to each hold one duck leg and small enough to fit inside a bamboo steamer basket with room for steam to rise around it. (If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, see Kitchen Notes for an alternative steaming method.) Divide the ginger and garlic slices between the trays and add 1 star anise to each. Roughly chop the green portion of a green onion and divide it between the foil trays (thinly slice the rest of the green onion along with the other one and reserve). Arrange the duck legs on top of the aromatics, stack the steamer and place it over a sauce pan with an inch or two of water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to low and steam duck for 45 minutes, keeping an eye on the water level so it doesn’t all boil away.
When duck has been steaming for about 35 minutes, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine honey, soy sauce and rice vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil (watch it like a hawk – it will boil over in a heartbeat). Reduce heat and cook down to sauce consistency, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes. Time this so the duck is ready to go in the oven; otherwise, it will get too thick as it cools.
Arrange duck legs on a rack in a low-sided, lightly oiled roasting pan (alternatively, you can use an ovenproof grilling pan – I did, and it worked beautifully). Discard the aromatics. Brush both sides of the duck generously with the honey vinegar sauce. Roast duck skin side up for 30 minutes or so, until a quick read thermometer registers 180 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh. Pour the rendered duck fat in the bottom of the roasting pan into a small bowl. There may be flakes of caramelized lacquer from the duck skin in it, if you’re lucky.
Transfer duck legs to a plate and let them rest until cool enough to handle. Now comes the tough part: Do not pick up the duck legs and devour them on the spot. You will seriously want to, as will anyone else who wanders into the kitchen. Instead, cut and tear the duck into bite-sized pieces, including the skin. Yes, the skin is fatty. It’s also crispy and delicious. Now you may gnaw on the leftover bones. Share, if you’re feeling generous.
Prepare the dish. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons each of reserved duck fat and canola oil in a large, high-sided skillet or sautée pan (or a wok) over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots and sautée, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Drizzle in a little extra canola oil if needed while cooking – mushrooms love to soak up any kind of fat or liquid – and season with salt and pepper. Return the duck to the pan, along with remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, and cook until duck is warmed through, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.