Dining, Entertaining & Celebrations

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Duck need not be reserved for special nights out on the town

Experimenting in the kitchen is one of the joys of cooking. Though many might consider duck a dish they can only enjoy at a fine restaurant, nothing could be further from the truth. Duck, including the following recipe for "Salt-Fried Molasses Duck Breast With Scallion Pancakes and Espresso Hoisin" from Mark Bitterman's "Salt Block Cooking" (Andrews McMeel), need not be reserved for special nights out on the town.

Salt-Fried Molasses Duck Breast With Scallion Pancakes and Espresso Hoisin

Makes 2 servings

1    8- to 10-inch shallow salt dish (not a flat salt block)

Duck

1    1-pound skin-on duck breast

2    tablespoons molasses

Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Sauce

2    tablespoons finely ground dark roasted coffee

1/4    cup boiling water

3    tablespoons hoisin sauce

1    teaspoon molasses

Pancakes

1    cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2    cup boiling water

2    tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/2    cup thinly sliced scallion greens

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

To make the duck, score the duck skin by cutting through the skin and the fat layer beneath it with a small sharp knife in a crisscross pattern. Mix the molasses, lemon zest and lemon juice in a quart-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the duck breast in the bag and seal the bag, pushing out any excess air. Massage the marinade into the meat and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

To make the sauce, mix the coffee and boiling water; let sit for 5 minutes. Strain out the solids through a small fine-mesh strainer. Mix the resulting "coffee" with the hoisin and molasses; set aside until ready to serve.

To make the pancakes, mix the flour and boiling water into a soft, pliable dough. Knead briefly on a clean work surface, just until the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a rough rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.

Put the salt dish over low heat on the stovetop or gas grill for 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and heat the salt plate for 10 more minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and heat the dish to about 450 F.

Meanwhile, roll the pancake dough out on a floured board into a rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Brush the top with the sesame oil and make a layer of the scallions over the surface; season with the red pepper flakes. Starting with one of the long sides, roll up the dough and scallions tightly, like a jelly roll. Cut the roll in half and spiral each piece into a circle. Flatten with your hands and then roll each circle gently into a 6-inch pancake; set aside.

Remove the duck breast from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade.

Put the duck breast, fat side down, on the preheated salt dish and cook. Spoon the fat into a medium skillet as it renders from the breast. When the skin on the duck breast is golden and crisp (after about 8 minutes), spoon as much remaining fat from the dish as possible and flip the breast, flesh-side down. Cook until the center of the breast registers 150 F on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 more minutes. Using a metal spatula, remove the duck from the salt dish and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Put the skillet with the duck fat over medium-high heat. Fry the pancakes in the hot fat until golden, a minute or two per side. Transfer to paper towels to absorb excess fat from the surface.

Slice the duck breast across the grain into 1/4-inch strips. Cut the pancakes into wedges. Serve the sliced duck and sliced pancakes drizzled with the espresso hoisin sauce.