The Lunar New Year — which known as the Spring Festival in China, Tet in Vietnam and Seollal in Korea — is a major festival celebrated in several Asian countries and global diaspora communities. It starts on the first new moon on the lunar calendar and ends on the first first moon...fifteen days later. Because the lunar calendar is based on the moon cycles, the holiday dates change slightly every year, but usually fall between late January and mid-February.
There were several auspicious significances to duck for new year's, including fidelity, prosperity, and longevity. Okay, we'll take all of that. Note that this is less of a traditional recipe and more of an inspired recipe. It's also really flexible to include whatever sauce or glaze you want. The basic technique: 4 hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, glaze, then finish it at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes.
mandarin oranges, lemons, and herbs to stuff the duck
jam, syrup, or sauce to glaze the duck
Also needed: 100% cotton twine, roasting pan with rack
Here's a more detailed how-to...unwrap the bird and remove all of the giblets from the duck's cavity. When your duck is empty, rinse it under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the cavity with some salt.
With a sharp knife, score a diamond pattern into the duck skin on the breast. Slice very carefully - you want to cut through most of the fat without cutting into the meat. As luck would have it, a duck’s layer of fat is fairly thick. So this process is relatively easy once you get the hang of it.
Poke the duck’s skin all over with a sharp knife, creating small holes through which the fat can escape more easily. Only prick the skin, try not to poke the meat. Stuff the duck with whatever you like. I used mandarins, lemons, and some herbs from my garden.
It's time to truss the duck! Cross the legs and tie them together like this with a piece of butcher’s twine.
Now it goes into the oven, breast side up.
After the first hour, pull the pan out of the oven. The skin will still be pale, but should be a little bit crisp when poked. Pour off the duck fat into a separate container; I used a large mason jar.
Prick the skin all over with a knife. When pierced, the skin should let out more molten duck fat. Make sure to get the area around the legs, which is particularly fatty.
Flip the bird over, so it’s breast-side down. Pour off more of the duck fat. And pop it back into the oven, breast-side down, for another hour at 300 degrees.
After the second hour, pull the pan out of the oven. The skin will be browner, and more crisp. Prick the skin all over, again and flip the bird breast-side up. Pour off the duck fat again.
Put it back in the oven, breast-side up, for 1 more hour at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the third hour, remove the pan from the oven. Your duck should be significantly browner and getting more crispy. Prick the skin all over, pour off more fat, and pop it back in the oven. Roast breast-side down for a final hour at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the 4th hour in the oven, pull the pan out of the oven and raise the heat up to 400 degrees.
Brush the duck with the jam, syrup, or sauce of your choice so that it's completely covered. Sprinkle with more sea salt.
Stick your pan back in the oven, and roast at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes - just until your duck is a beautiful brown color. Keep a close eye on it, and pull it out if it starts to burn.
A Throwback to Lunar New Year 2013
Back when R was in 5th grade, a few families from the school wanted to take their kids to experience Lunar New Year in San Francisco's Chinatown. The teacher couldn't make it an official fieldtrip, so we just did it ourselves.
We drove up to the South Bay, hopped on BART, ate in Chinatown, watched the entire parade, and got home close to midnight. It was a marathon day, but was such a great experience for the kids.