It was cold and rainy as I wandered the market the other day — “nice weather for ducks,” as the old saying goes. I know it refers to damp meteorological conditions, but somehow that phrase always makes me a little hungry.

As fate would have it, Hudson Valley Duck Farm was selling its wares just a few feet away. I walked away with six fat moulard duck legs in my shopping bag. The moulard is a cross between the Muscovy and Pekin varieties, with legs that are perfect for braising, which is what I intended to do.

Until I changed my mind.

Maybe it was the fetchingly diminutive daikon radishes at the next stand, or the frilly cilantro. The duck was suddenly headed in a Chinese direction.

Some Chinese cookbooks recommend steaming duck before roasting it to crisp the skin. It is a good technique to master. Steaming yields moist, tender duck, and it provides bonus ingredients to save for later: the liquid left in the steaming pot contains a fair amount of rendered duck fat and a small amount of concentrated duck broth. The two will separate when refrigerated.

I seasoned the legs with a blend of toasted Sichuan pepper and salt and left them to cure for a few hours before cooking. Many pasta pots, mine included, come with a steaming basket insert. A few crushed cinnamon sticks and star anise pods in the basket would perfume the duck as it steamed.

It’s worth mixing up a batch of fragrant, flavorful Sichuan-pepper salt, both for this recipe and to keep on hand for all-purpose seasoning. (If you can’t find Sichuan peppercorns in a store, online spice merchants will have them.)

Sichuan pepper, unlike black pepper, is not spicy; it is pungent, floral and tingling, and makes almost anything taste better. (Try it with roasted chicken.) To make it, toast Sichuan peppercorns and flaky salt in a dry skillet over medium heat, then grind them to a coarse powder.

Before roasting the duck legs, I whisked up a simple glaze for them, with soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and a bit of the fermented spicy black bean paste doubanjiang.

I wanted a bright, juicy salad of winter fruits to accompany the duck. Persimmons, oranges and pomegranate tossed with daikon, Serrano chile, lime juice, ginger and sesame oil provided a kicky contrast to the crisp-roasted duck. (Be sure to use Fuyu persimmons, which can be eaten unripe. The long, pointy Hachiya persimmon must be completely ripe to be palatable.)

Duck recipes by David Tanis
Roast Duck with Orange and Ginger

Italian Red-Wine Braised Duck with Olive Gremolata