Flashback November 2003, my first taste of duck. I just said yes and I do to my best friend in front of friends and family in my beautiful hometown. We partied and danced the night away then quickly gathered our bags and headed to the airport in Nashville. We boarded the plane early for us newlyweds at 6am for our dream Hawaiian honeymoon. You see, travel and adventure were always at the forefront in our relationship. We had went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Boone, North Carolina, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and to Ecuador in our dating era. We were so determined to travel together; we would save change and use that money to help us travel. We had been dating 5 years when Jamie asked me to marry him and our deal was to have a Hawaiian honeymoon. We were budget conscious and ensured that the most important aspect of the event was our honeymoon. Jamie set up the entire arrangements for the honeymoon and I focused on the wedding. We went on a Norwegian Cruise Line, freestyle cruise to Hawaii. It was our first time on a cruise and definitely was not our last. We traveled around the islands and then onto an island in the Republic of Kiribati, Fanning Island. The most important part for you to know about that island is it is also known as Gilligan’s Island. We got to travel across the international date line and have 2 thanksgivings that year. On the first Thanksgiving in 2003, I got to taste duck for the very first time. I love being on cruises or places that you have a meal plan. You can be a bit adventurous in your meal choices and always have a back up plan that does not blow the bank. The duck was beautifully moist and had a sweet soy orange glaze that would make you want to smack your momma – it was that good. It was so memorable due to our honeymoon, two Thanksgivings, and the ambience of the beautiful Norwegian ship, the Sun.
Fast forward 2018, Beijing, China. I had the opportunity to speak at Beijing Normal University. My former graduate assistant was back in her homeland and living out her dream job. I was honored and so excited to be back in China and work with her on this project. I made sure I flew in early so that I could enjoy the city and see the sights with her and one of my students. Beijing is so vast and diverse. When we were there for our adoption, it was a quick two days. We hit the major highlights but missed a lot of what this city has to offer.
If you go to China, get jade! Just do it, pay for it, and you will have no regrets. In Chinese culture, women will wear jade on their wedding day. We bought jade earrings for our daughter when we adopted her a few years ago. The intricate carvings and workmanship these Chinese artists do with jade is outstanding. If you get a chance to go to the Beihai Park on W. Dianmen Street, do it. It is a beautiful park and has a pretty cool boat ride through the park. I probably would not recommend renting a bike and traveling the five miles on the highway to go there, but hey, I survived. When you haven’t ridden a bike in like 5 years or more, why not rent one and ride down a 8 lane highway to get there because the taxi was taking too long? When in Rome, I mean Beijing… I digress. The Dashanzi Art district is worth the hour train ride in the city. This is so cool, the once manufacturing area of Beijing that caused quite a bit of smog in the city has been transformed into an artist village. The 3-D art work was amazing to see and play around with while we were there. Of course, I got my picture in front of a painted horse thinking of my Old Kentucky home.
So often, friends will ask me what I eat in another country and how brave I am for trying new foods. Seriously folks, there are some amazing foods out there to try from all over the world! Try it – get out of your comfort zone and try it. These are just a few of the highlights of the food I tried while in the city. When we were in Beijing with the adoption of our daughter, we had tried to eat duck however, we did not get the chance to try it. The wait at the restaurant was a bit too long and we were afraid we would miss our meeting. I knew this time around, I was going to eat duck in the city if I had to wait three hours – it was going to happen. Boy, it did not disappoint. They do a bit of a show and carve your duck right in front of you.
It was just as I had remembered it from our honeymoon cruise. DELICIOUS!!
Fast forward – Present day. Our local Kroger grocery store is getting geared up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. They are feverishly stocking shelves and the coolers. I happened to walk by and I spotted DUCK!!!! In all the years since our honeymoon, I had never seen duck in our local grocery store. I literally squealed like a little girl on Christmas morning. A few folks turned to see if I was alright or just having an attack of some kind. I reassured them I was not insane but in fact thrilled to have duck. The confused glare from one older gentlemen made me want to tell him the whole story of my excitement but I figured I just needed to get the duck and get home.
This beautiful farm raised duck out of Indiana helped me to celebrate our 16th anniversary in style. Maple Leaf farms out of Leesburg, Indiana has been raising ducks since 1958. The quality of the duck was outstanding.
Peking Roasted Duck
1- 4-5 lb Duck, innards removed, thawed (took two days in the refrigerator)
2 Halo oranges
1 tablespoon of fresh diced ginger
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp House of Tsang Stir Fry oil
1 green onion diced
1 tsp of dried orange peel (I microwaved the fresh peel to dry it out since I did not have any dried and then diced it – it worked)
1/2 tbsp of sugar
1/2 tbsp of salt
2 tablespoons of light sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons of Shao Xing Cooking wine (This is my favorite brand but most rice wines will work)
1 tsp of Chinese 5 spice (or 13 spice – I have on hand) powder
1/4 cup of sorghum
1 tbsp of rice vinegar
1 cup of hot water
First, get your large plastic bag ready. I used ziplock 5 gallon zip and lock bag. Next, I made diagonal cuts just along the skin of the duck breast, then reversed it to create a diamond pattern. DO NOT cut deep, light cuts just through the skin of the duck will do. I dried the inside of the duck out prior to stuffing the duck with 2 of the halo oranges.
Combine the marinade ingredients, ginger, garlic, green onion, soy sauce, Shao Xing, salt, sugar, dried orange peel, and the 13 spice powder. Pour over the duck and let marinate for 24 hours.
Next day, preheat the oven to 425 degree. Make the glaze. Take the glaze ingredients(sorghum, water and rice vinegar), mix, and cook on medium heat till combined. Place the duck in a large roasting pan, be sure to spray with Pam cooking spray. Brush the duck with 1/4th of the glaze and place in the oven.
Cook on 425 degrees for 35 minutes. Then add another 1/4 glaze (half should be gone by this point) to the duck and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast for another 20 minutes. Pull duck out and use the remaining glaze (1/2) and roast for an additional 10 minutes till the internal temp is 170 degrees. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
I made orange flavored, steamed broccoli (I used a bit of the duck sauce pack on the broccoli since I did not use it on the duck – it was good). Jasmine rice and hoisin sautéed mushrooms. Not bad for 16 years of saying yes to all of our adventures.