Supermarket ducks are cheap, but they're not very good, consisting largely of bone and fat (and each one feeds only two to three hungry people). A plump free-range duck from a good butcher or food market will cost you more, but you won't be disappointed by its flavour and succulence.
Shredded Duck With Crisp Skin and Dried-Pear Sauce
1 large free-range duck
1 T (15 ml) flaky sea salt or coarse salt
1 T (15 ml) Schezuan peppercorns
1 T (15 ml) black peppercorns
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced
half a lemon
3 spring onions, whiter parts only, finely sliced
For the sauce:
10 dried pear halves (about 100 g)
¾ cup (180 ml) water
½ cup (125 ml) white sugar
2 whole star anise
a stick of cinnamon
a thumb-length strip of orange zest
Heat the oven to 200ºC. Dry the duck with kitchen paper, inside and out. Grind the salt and peppercorns together with a mortar and pestle to make a coarse powder, then pat the mixture all over the duck breast, sprinkling a little into the cavity. Tuck the ginger and half lemon into the cavity and roast the duck, breast-side up and uncovered, at 200ºC for 15 minutes. Now turn the heat down to 160ºC and roast the duck for one and three-quarter hours, with the oven fan on. Every half hour, slide out the roasting dish and use a ladle to scoop out the rendered fat (keep it for roasting potatoes). Now turn the oven heat back up to 200ºC and roast the duck for a further 20 minutes, or until the skin is dark golden and crisp.
In the meantime, bring the sauce ingredients to the boil in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the pears are soft but not collapsed. Allow to cool and discard the anise, cinnamon and peel. Fish out the pears using a slotted spoon and place in a blender. Press the pulse button a few times to create a chunky sauce, adding just enough of the cooking syrup to allow the blades to turn freely.
When the duck is done, allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Scoop all the remaining fat from the pan, but leave any juices. Prepare the duck as follows: peel the crisp skin off the top, pull the breast and leg meat away from the bone, and using two forks, pull it into shreds and flakes. Tip the meat back into the roasting dish and toss it in the remaining pan juices. Cut the crisp skin into very thin slices. Tip the duck into a warm serving platter (or divide it among ramekin-sized bowls, or ceramic Chinese spoons, or ‘cups’ of crisp lettuce). Sprinkle the crisp skin and the spring onions over the duck and serve immediately with the pear sauce.
Serves 8 as a snack or starter
Like this recipe? Try my Easy Duck Rillettes