With all the things that have been going on lately, we stayed home for Christmas. We took the opportunity to try out some new recipes.
Peking Duck. Mandarin Pancakes. Hoisin Sauce. Wonton Soup.
Yes, we had a Chinese themed Christmas dinner. Most of the recipes I pulled off of Serious Eats.
First the duck. We got a real pekin duck from Belcampo Meats and mostly followed the Serious Eats recipe. We used brown rice syrup because I couldn’t find maltose syrup. I forgot the salt and baking powder initially (Tuesday), so I glazed it a second time on Wednesday and then put dry ingredients on.
We didn’t make plum sauce, it being the wrong season and all. But we had jarred plum sauce which worked. We also had 365 hoisin sauce, which tastes more like worcestershire sauce than anything (too heavy on the vinegar, IMO). I made hoisin for leftovers on Boxing Day (hoisin recipe from Serious Eats) which was much, much better.
The magical bit was the pancakes. I do quite a bit of bread baking and make tortillas and stuff, but I was a little skeptical that the pancakes would work. The first step is to make a boiling water dough (1 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of boiling water). It makes quite a dry dough, that is a little tough to knead. The recipe says “knead until smooth” but I just could not get it to pull together. I was starting to believe my flour was bad and the gluten wasn’t all gone. (Yeah, silly, I know… but I could not get the dough to act like dough.)
After about 10 minutes of kneading I decided just to shape the dough and let it rest. That’s often a fix for something wrong with bread “let it rest and figure itself out.” 30 minutes of resting under a damp towel and, voilà, I had a great dough.
The rolling out bit is where the magic happens. The dough gets cut into 12 pieces and rolled into balls (the size of a large grape or so). Then you take a ball of dough and flatten it into a disk and paint one side with sesame oil. Then you take a second ball of dough, flatten it into a disk and put it on top of the sesame oil coated disk. You roll them out together, as thin as you can (into a 8 – 10 inch disk) and grill them on a dry pan. Yes, you cook both together.
Once they’re cooked, you peel them apart. It actually works. The first couple took a major leap of faith on my part. These are sooooo thin and so fragile, that there’s just no way they’re going to pull apart. But They Do!!! My first batch on Christmas day was good. My second batch (for leftovers) on Boxing day were just perfect. They’re thin and chewy and soft and just exactly what Mandarin pancakes should be.
I’m so pleased. The duck skin was good, but not quite as crispy as I’d like, and a little darker than I wanted. I think we’re going to have to try again and get it right and then have friends over for duck dinner. The wontons were awesome, too. But that’s another post.