Smoked Duck Buns with Peanut Butter Sauce
Living in a tiny New York city apartment with no outdoor space has taught me a few tricks. One of them was that it is possible to smoke things inside your house without setting off fire alarms (though your smoke detectors may go off).
It’s a relatively straightforward process that involves sealing some sugar, tea and rice in a pot along with some meat and getting it hot enough that the sugar starts to burn. This in turn causes the tea and rice to give off a wonderful aroma, which the meat absorbs like a sponge.
Paired with a honey peanut butter sauce, scallions and cucumber, the smoked duck makes for a great snack or first course to a meal, and most of the work can be done ahead of time.
While you should be able to find unfilled Chinese steamed buns in the freezer section of most Chinese grocery stores, if you’re not able to find them, this would also be good in brioche hamburger buns.
- Yield:6-8 servings
- Prep Time:45 minutes
- Cook Time:45 minutes
- Total Time:1 hour 30 minutes
For the duck:
1 pound Moulard Duck Breast
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 tsp. Chinese five spice powder
1/4 cup rice
1/4 cup loose tea leaves
3 tbsp. sugar
For the sauce:
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 hothouse cucumber, seeded and shredded
1 bag frozen unfilled Chinese steamed buns
The night before smoking the duck, put it in a gallon-sized freezer bag along with the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and 5 spice powder. Remove as much of the air from the bag as possible and seal. Squish the bag around to make sure the marinade is mixed and coating the entire breast. Put the bag in the refrigerator.
To prepare the scallions, trim the ends then cut them into 3’ lengths. Use a sharp knife to cut halfway into the stem from end to end. This should allow you to unroll the onion and lay it flat. Then you can slice thin strands of onion. Put the shredded onion in a large bowl of ice water to crisp them up and take the oniony edge off.
To prepare the sauce, mix the Peanut Butter & Co. The Bee's Knees and hoisin sauce in a bowl until smooth.
To smoke the duck, find a large pot that you’re okay with getting dirty. Line it with extra-wide aluminum foil. If you’re foil isn’t wide enough you can join two sheets by crimping the edges over a few times. Make sure it does not leak though as burnt sugar is almost impossible to get off your pan.
Add the rice, tea and sugar over the foil, then place a metal rack with at least 1” of clearance on top of the rice and tea. Steamer racks work great for this, but keep in mind that your rack is going to end up burnt and discolored.
Remove the duck from the marinade and use a paper towel to wipe off the excess marinade. Cut a crosshatch pattern into the skin of the duck then place it skin-side up on the rack.
Cover the pot with aluminum foil, and then put the lid on and double both layers of foil back over the lid. The idea is to create as good of a seal as possible to keep the smoke in the pot and out of your house.
Turn on the heat to high and heat until a whisk of smoke starts appearing. Turn the heat down slightly and set a timer for 10 minutes. You want to continue to see a little smoke coming out, but you don’t want your neighbors to call the fire department, so keep an eye on it and adjust the temperature accordingly.
After the timer goes off, turn off the heat then set the timer for another 15 minutes. Once it goes off again, open up your smoker and remove the duck.
Heat a cast iron pan until very hot, then place the duck skin-side down in the pan. Use a spatula to press the duck down so that the skin crisps evenly. Be careful not to burn it as the sugar in the marinade will scorch easily.
Transfer the duck to a cutting board and allow it to rest for ten minutes. Use a sharp knife to slice the duck thinly. Drain the scallions and use paper towels or a salad spinner to get rid of the excess moisture.
Heat the buns either in a steamer or in the microwave according to the package directions.
To assemble the buns, split the buns in half and spread some of the peanut butter sauce on one half of the bun. Top with duck, cucumbers and scallions and eat immediately.