Tea Brined Mahogany Duck
Mary Karlin | Wood Fired Cooking | Ten Speed Press, 2009 | Serves 4 to 6 as a main course
Smoking duck with tea is an Asian tradition. This recipe uses a fragrant brew of Darjeeling tea, fresh ginger, and star anise for roasting rather than smoking. The tea brine gives the duck a dark, smoky flavor. My favorite way of roasting the duck is in the La Caja China box roaster. The duck comes out a beautiful mahogany color and is succulent and moist, with a smoky taste and a crisp skin. An Asian-influenced basting sauce is used as a mop a few times over the course of roasting. Tea brine can be made with other black teas, such as oolong or Earl Grey. It can also be used for roasted chicken or even pork.—Mary Karlin
Note: This recipe provides instructions for cooking three ways: box roaster, wood-fire oven or ceramic cooker (such as a Big Green Egg).
For the tea brine
• 8 cups water
• 1/2 cup Darjeeling or oolong tea leaves
• 3 slices fresh ginger
• 2 star anise pods
• 1/3 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup honey
• Two 3-pound ducks, or one 5-pound roasting chicken
For the basting sauce
• 1 cup reserved tea brine
• 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
• 4 tablespoons soy sauce
• 3 tablespoons honey
Make the brine
- Combine the water, tea leaves, ginger, and star anise in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. In a large nonreactive container, combine the steeped tea, soy sauce, and honey and stir until the honey is dissolved. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Add the bird(s) to the brine; refrigerate ducks for 4 hours, chicken for 6 hours. Keep the bird(s) submerged by placing a plate on top to weight down and at a temperature of not more than 40°F (4°C). Remove from the brine 1 hour before cooking. Rinse and pat dry.
- Prepare a medium-hot fire 400°F (200°C) in a wood-fired oven or cooker.
Make the basting sauce
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until the honey is dissolved.
Roast in a box roaster
- Place the bird(s) breast side down on a wire roasting rack in a roasting pan or clay baker and baste with the basting sauce. Light the charwood once the bird(s) is in place. Roast, covered, with indirect heat for 1 hour. Being careful not to pierce the skin, turn over, baste, and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 175° to 180°F (79°C to 82°C).
Roast in a wood-fired oven or ceramic cooker
- Place the bird(s) breast side down in a roasting pan and baste with the basting sauce. Roast for 1 hour. Being careful not to pierce the skin, turn over, baste, and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 175° to 180°F (79°C to 82°C)…
- Let sit for 10 minutes before carving and serving.