Our friend Marjolein makes great Asian style food, and we really liked this variation on the well-known Peking duck that she prepared for us. Usually Peking duck is all about the skin, but in Marjolein’s version it is all about the breast meat. She marinates it in hoisin sauce and garlic, and then cooks the duck breast in the oven. The way you eat it is the same as traditional Peking duck: wrapped in pancakes with cucumber, scallions, and hoisin sauce (even though that is not authentic Peking duck sauce). Recently she started using sous-vide and asked me how to prepare a sous-vide version of this dish. I thought it was a great idea, as this would allow you to serve the breast meat medium rare from edge to edge. And so I decided to prepare it myself as well. The tricky part is the sugar in the hoisin sauce, which makes it difficult to crisp up the skin without burning it. You could also cook the duck in the oven instead if you don’t have sous-vide equipment. Since I did not have time to go to the Asian market, I decided to make the pancakes myself. That is quite easy, very tasty, and not a lot of work if you only make 8 of them. Here’s what I did…
For 2 servings as a main course or 4 servings as a generous appetizer
2 half duck breasts, about 400 grams (.9 lb)
6 Tbsp hoisin sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
For 8 pancakes
200 grams (1 1/3 cups) flour, plus more for dusting
150 ml (scant 2/3 cup) hot water (just off the boil)
2-3 Tbsp cold water
pinch of salt
sesame oil for brushing
scallions (green onions)
Score the skin of the duck breast in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife, making sure to cut just the skin and not into the meat.
Render a lot of fat from the skin side by cooking the duck breast in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat.
Cook the duck only on the skin side and take it out before the skin starts to burn.
If using a chamber vacuum sealer, allow the duck to cool off to refrigerator temperature before continuing. If using a ziploc bag, you can skip that step.
Cover the duck breast all over with minced garlic and hoisin sauce.
Vacuum seal in a chamber vacuum sealer, or use a ziploc bag and the water displacement method.
Cook the duck breast sous-vide for 2 to 4 hours at 55C/131F. It will be more tender after 4 hours, if you have the time.
Meanwhile, make the dough for the pancakes. Put the flour and a pinch of salt in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, let it run at low speed, and add the hot water.
When all of the water has been incorporated, the dough has not yet come together.
Add just enough cold water to let the dough come together. Add this a little at the time, so the dough does not become too wet. If you do end up adding too much water, you can always add a little more flour.
Switch over to the dough hook…
…and knead the dough on medium speed until it is smooth and elastic.
Wrap the dough in plastic, and allow it to rest for at least half an hour at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll them into balls on a work surface dusted with flour.
Roll out two of the balls to a diameter of about 10 cm (4″). Brush one of them with sesame oil, and place the other on top.
Roll out the double pancake…
…to a circle of about 20 cm (8″) in diameter. Roll from the center to the outside in all directions to end up with something that is more or less a circle.
Cook the double pancake in a dry and medium hot frying pan on both sides until brown spots appear (not black).
Now separate the pancakes and cook the other side as well. Repeat with the remainder of the dough. Keep the pancakes warm by wrapping them in a clean tea towel. You can also reheat them in the microwave if needed.
Take the duck out of the sous-vide.
Strain the sauce into a saucepan through a sieve to eliminate the garlic, bring to a boil, and allow to reduce by half over medium heat, stirring regularly. This hoisin sauce is enriched with duck juices and garlic, but you could also serve regular hoisin sauce with the pancakes if you prefer.
Pat the duck dry with paper towels.
Crisp up the duck in a frying pan, skin side first to render some more fat, and then the other side. Be very careful, because the sugar in the hoisin sauce will make it burn very easily.
Slice the duck and serve it with the pancakes, strips of cucumber, strips of scallions, and the reduced sauce from the bag.
Your guests can fill and roll the pancakes themselves, or you can do it for them.
This is great with a gewurztraminer from Alsace or Alto Adige.
Baking or slow roasting is an original way to prepare kale. It takes a long time to bake, but most of that is inactive time. My version with Italian flavors has great depth of flavor and a nice texture.