Crispy Duck with Octo Vinaigrette

Happy Year of the Dragon!  Just a quiet dinner for us tonight.  Our celebration with my family will not be until next Saturday, but the official Chinese New Year begins on Monday.  Back when I was living in Taiwan, pretty much everything was shut for New Years except the corner 7-11.  Factories would be shut for weeks and people celebrated for days.  It is the biggest holiday there by far.  

We were living in the homeland of firecrackers.  Long strands were being set off in front of businesses, homes, everywhere.  We had gone down to the Chang Kai Shek Memorial after hearing about great fireworks and such.  I have never been more afraid in my life, for my life.  Bear in mind, twenty years ago, there were, as far as we knew, no regulations for the setting off of fireworks in this overly densely populated city.  It was a free for all.  We went down there, beers in hand (no regulations, as far as we knew, for drinking in the streets either), to see the show.  I don't recall seeing people lighting any bottle rockets, or other projectile objects, but they were everywhere.  I don't know how we managed to get into the firing range but found it impossible to escape.  It felt like hours of high pitched whistling and exploding by our heads.  Insanity.  I think I cried.  Good times.

Now safely in Seattle, no fireworks at our house, I am making a crispy duck for dinner and thinking about things I hope my kids will never do.  
For the duck:

1 Whole fresh duck
1/4 Cup kosher salt
1/4 Cup sugar
2 Cups water
Oil for frying

Cut duck into 4 sections, 2 breast halves and 2 hind quarters.  Combine salt, sugar, water and stir to dissolve.  Place duck into a large zip lock bag and add the brine.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.  Remove from brine and steam the duck for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  I placed the duck in a deep dish and placed it in a large wok to steam.  
After steaming, remove the duck, let cool and refrigerate for an hour or so.  I like to keep the liquid in the dish from steaming the duck.  I remove the fat and keep the liquid for a future use like a hot pot, or cooking tofu, etc.
Fill a large pot or wok with oil, about 1/3 of the pot.  You want enough to deep fry the duck, but keep in mind the oil will bubble and expand when you fry and you don't want the oil to spill over, so do not overfill.  I use a large heavy iron pot that is deep and which I only use for frying.
Heat the oil to 375F.  Fry the duck in batches if necessary, until the skin is deep brown, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  
Once the duck is cool enough to handle, cut into smaller pieces and toss with the Octo Vinaigrette.  Finish with sliced scallions.

The Octo Vinaigrette is a David Chang recipe, and can be found here.  In his cookbook, it is served with fried chicken.  It it very similar tasting to the sauce I use for Mandarin Fried Chicken, and we love it!  It will make you want to hug each other for joy.  And so we did!


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