Pressed Duck
The Key to Chinese Cooking by Irene Kuo

The Duck

1 whole duck, about 4 1/2 lbs
1 Tbs 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
1/2 cup water chestnut flour combined with 1/2 cup cornstarch
Use all cornstarch if you can't fine water chestnut flour
The Brown Sauce

1 cup strained duck stock
1 Tbs dry sherry or rice wine
2 to 3 tsp light soy sauce
1 Tbs cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbs water
2 tsp sesame oil

For Garnish

1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
6 to 8 whole lettuce leaves
6 cups oil

Discard the fat from the cavity, trim off the excess neck skin and tail, and rinse the duck. Then split it in half lengthwise through the breast, and rub the halves well with the salt on both sides. You'll find it easier to work with if you cut it into quarters. 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 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 re 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 375F, add the duck and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and allow 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. Great with stir fried green beans and simmered cucumbers.

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings