Szechuan Tea-Smoked Duck Breasts
At a glance
2 boneless muscovoy or moulard duck breasts (with skin)
1 tbsp whole Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1tsp five-spice powder
1 cinnamon stick (6 inches) broken into small pieces
2 tbsp loose black tea leaves
1tbsp dry mesquite wood chips for the tabletop smoker
1/2 tsp dried orange peel
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid honey
1/2 tsp grated gingerroot
Prepare the marinade: In a bowl, combine sake, soy sauce, honey and ginger.
With a sharp knife, make scores in duck skin, through the fat (do not cut into meat), about 1/2 inch apart in a crosshatch pattern. Place duck in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal, toss to coat and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours, tossing occasionally.
In a heavy skillet, over medium-low heat, stir peppercorns and salt for 3 to 5 minutes, or until peppercorns are toasted and fragrant. coarsely grind in a clean coffee or spice grinder. Stir in five-spice powder.
Remove duck from marinade, discarding marinade, and lightly pat dry. Sprinkle duck with pepper mixture.
Line the bottom of the stovetop smoker with a double layer of heavy-duty foil, leaving a 3-inch overhang along the edges.
In a bowl, combine cinnamon, tea leaves, mesquite and orange peel. Pour into the center of the smoker and spread out evenly to 1/4 inch thick in the middle of the bottom pan. Place the drip pan over the mixture and set the grill rack in the smoker.
In a skillet, heat oil over high heat. Place duck skin side down and sear for 2 to 3 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.
Transfer duck to the grill rack. Fold the foil inward and skip on the smoker cover, closing it almost all the way. Heat over high heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until steady wisps of smoke appear. Close the lid and reduce heat to medium. Smoke duck for 8 minutes.
Turn off heat and let duck stand in smoker for 10 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast registers 150 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare, or until desired doneness. Carefully open the smoker and transfer duck to a cutting board. Transfer to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tea-smoked duck is one of the most famous dishes of Szechuan Province. Originally, smoking was a way to preserve foods, but it later came to be used as a flavor enhancer.
Tips: Other wood chips could substitute for the mesquite. Try oak, sugar maple or any fruitwood. Try tea-smoking other skin-on poultry, such as chicken thighs or breasts, quail, pheasant, or turkey. This marinade can also be used for poultry, pork, fish and shellfish.