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This is a fine recipe and one that is suitable for special occasions. Duck is a rich meat and well adapted to this cooking style. Pressed duck can be served with a variety of sauces. Typically, a brown sauce, sweet and sour, or plum sauce is served with this dish. I prefer the sweet and sour option.
Now, on to the recipe! Be well, and good eating!
Pressed duck used to be one of my favorite dishes in Chinese restaurants, but in recent years it has been difficult to find. I think this recipe has a French influence, yet still delicious.
1 Duck, about 4.5 lbs
1 T salt
1 whole star anise, broken into points
2 slices peeled ginger
1 small green onion, cut in two
8 cups boiling water
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
Discard the fat from the cavity of the duck, trim off the excess neck skin and tail, and rinse. Then split the duck in half lengthwise through the breast, and rub the halves well with salt on both sides. Place snugly in a pot. Add the star anise points, ginger, and green onion and pour in the 8 cups boiling water. Bring the water a boil again over high heat; then turn the heat very low, cover, and simmer gently for about 1 1/4 hours. Remove the duck to a plate to cool and reserve the stock for the brown sauce. This can be done one or two days ahead.
When the duck is completely cool, remove all the bones from the inside, keeping the meat and skin intact. Place the meat between two pieces of waxed paper and press down lightly with the palms of your hands to loosen the meat and squash the fat so that the texture is lighter and crisper when deep fried. Dip the pieces of meat in the beaten egg whites, then coat evenly with the starch mixture. Place them on a heatproof plate and steam over medium heat for 20 minutes. Transfer to a dry plate. This can be done 1 day ahead.
Strain 1 cup of the stock, making sure it is completely fat free. This is easiest if you refrigerate the stock until the fat hardens and can be peeled off. Just before you are ready to deep fry the duck, bring the stock to a simmer, season with sherry and soy to taste, stir in the cornstarch and water, stir until smooth and slightly thickened, cover and turn off the heat. Chop the almonds and set aside. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 375 F, add the duck and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and allow it to cool slightly. Slice each piece into 5 or 6 slices and mound in the center of the platter. Heat the sauce for a moment or two and pour over the duck, sprinkle with the almonds. Serve immediately.