Christmas Peking Duck: When no traditions lead to new traditions…

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Peking duck, steamed buns and accompaniments

Usually there are many traditions that I look forward to at Christmas. There’s the smorgasbord my family puts out on Christmas Eve where I double up on the potato sausage and avoid the pickled herring. There’s deciphering my grandma’s occasionally evil gifts (sometimes she makes us translate Swedish or sends us on treasure hunts) and seeing who found the almond in the rice pudding, earning themselves a year of good luck.

This year, with the way the calendar worked out, it made more sense for me to visit my family the weekend before Christmas. On Sunday afternoon we set up the smorgasbord — loaded up with all of my favorites — and opened our gifts to each other. There were Christmas cookies, card games, my mom’s cranberry bread and plenty of wine. It was lovely.

And when it was over, it felt like Christmas was over — even though it was only Dec. 22.

With family and traditions over with, my husband and I spent our first Christmas ever home alone. Deciding to make the best of it, we thought we’d take a less traditional route to our Christmas dinner: honey glazed Peking duck, steamed buns and roasted pork belly.

After all no matter where you are and who you’re with, good food is a must for any holiday.

We started the process by air-drying our pekin duck for two days. (note: Pekin duck is a breed, Peking duck is a dish.) Basically this means we left it unwrapped on a rack in our fridge for a few days. This dries out the moisture in the skin allowing for more crispy goodness — the best part of any duck.

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Air-dried pekin duck

Next we brushed the inside and outside of the duck with a glaze of honey, soy, ginger, five-spice and Mandarin orange juice.

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Brushing on the glaze

We let the duck come to room temperature for a few hours before putting it in the oven. It roasted for an hour or so, getting a fresh coat of glaze every fifteen minutes until it looked like this:

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Next we gathered together all of the fixin’s: cucumbers and carrots pickled in rice wine vinegar, kim chi Brussels sprouts and hoisin sauce. Oh yes, and the co-stars of the show.

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Roasted pork belly — rubbed with sugar and salt

And the steamed buns, straight from the Momofuku cookbook:

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Rolling the dough — recipe makes about 45 buns

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Buns right out of the steamer — shiny and puffed

Everything came together in a pretty magical way. The two of us ate until we were stuffed, sipping on glasses of pink bubbles and pushing our cats away from the duck.

Hopefully next year I’ll be able to figure out a way to spend Christmas with my family. But if that doesn’t work out perhaps my husband and I will give our Chinese-style Christmas another shot. We don’t have any traditions that are just ours so maybe it’s time to start!

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Cheers to a fabulous Christmas feast!