House in the Sun Lacquered Duck

Spicy Lacquered Duck, Sautéed String Beans, Wild Mushrooms and 5-spice Yams

We have been making unusually colored foods around here lately. Unlike our recent purple bean soup, though, this dark mahogany duck is not a mistake. Lacquered duck isn't some new craft fad that involves dipping a duck in shellac or affixing old postcards and maps to it with mod podge. Lacquering a duck results in a lustrous deep reddish finish similar to a Chinese objet d'art and carries the richest of Chinese flavors. It's juicy meat and crispy skin tastes fantastic, and makes the house smell infinitely better during it's preparation than, say, shellac.
Our crowning wine tasting adventure in New Zealand provided the inspiration for this meal. Te Whare Ra (tea far-ee ra, meaning House in the Sun in the Maori language), an inspiring boutique winery in Marlborough's Wairau Valley wine-growing district, provided a personal wine-tasting apex for me.

Te Where Ra's Aromatic Whites

Winery owners and serious wine makers Jason Flowerday and his wife Anna produce a fantastic portfolio of premiere wines. Have you ever tasted beeswax, buckwheat honey, slate, or hoisin sauce in your wines? These are the kind of nuanced yet clear flavors that come along with the fully-ripe juiciness and zippy acidity found in each of the remarkable Te Whare Ra wines.

Jason and Anna's whites, Sauvingon Blanc; Riesling "M" (medium bodied, in the Mosel style); Riesling "D" (in the dry style); Pinot Gris; Gewurztraminer; Chardonnay; a lovely blend named Toru (three, in Maori, for the three varietals from which it is made;) and Noble Riesling (a Botrytis dessert wine) provide the most aromatic, balanced, and elegant profile of any white wines I've ever tasted.

The reds, Pinot Noir and Syrah, were big, deep, highly structured and also very elegant. Jason aptly described the Pinot Noir varietal as an iron fist in a velvet glove, and Syrah as a bigger fist in a bigger glove.

Customs regulations being what they are restricted My Baby and I from bringing home every one of these gorgeous wines. We'd already purchased several bottles along the way that we felt we couldn't live without, and therefore could only pack one Te Whare Ra wine. Choosing which one, my friends, was the biggest dilemma of the entire trip.

It was the savory hoisin-undertoned Syrah that immediately conjured thoughts of this duck. It was this Syrah that we couldn't leave behind.

Spicy Lacquered Duck
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 5-pound duck, rinsed, giblets removed and reserved for another purpose

Place the first 10 ingredients (soy sauces through cayenne pepper) in a 2 gallon plastic bag with a zipper top. Squish with your hands to thoroughly mix. Place duck in the bag and roll a few times to coat duck with spice mixture. Place on a large plate in the refrigerator. Turn every few hours for as few as four hours and up to two days.

Preheat convection oven to 400˚. Remove duck from marinade and drain well. Arrange duck, breast side up, on roasting rack in baking pan. Reserve marinade to small saucepan. Pat duck dry, inside and out, with paper towels. You'll never believe that it will turn so dark and richly colored at this point, but it will.

Roast duck for 45 minutes. Turn duck over. Roast duck until tender and deep, dark brown, about another 15 minutes. Insert a long wooden spoon into main cavity of duck and tilt, allowing juices into drain into roasting pan. Place breast side up again, and roast for another 10 minutes, or until thermometer inserted into thickest part of the breast reads 155˚, or 180˚ at the leg joint. Allow duck to rest 15 minutes before carving. While the duck is resting, bring the marinade to a rapid boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to create a highly-flavored sauce to serve alongside the duck.

Warning: My experience with roasting duck has borne out that it is a good policy to run your hood fan during the process. Highly fatty (and highly flavorful) duck drippings smoke easily. Save yourself a problem and just turn on the fan when you turn on the oven, and leave it on for the duration.

Served with dry-sautéed string beans (email me and I'll send you the recipe), stir-fried wild mushrooms and sweet red pepper from our garden, and baked yams with 5-spice butter, the duck and Syrah brought back wonderful memories of the Marlborough House in the Sun while creating some new ones in our Oregon House in the Rain. Too bad that it was the only bottle of Te Whare Ra to be had for a long while.


  1. What a beautiful and elegant dish! Can't wait to try it. Love the wine mentions as well. Enjoyed your Bio; a kindred spirit to my way of food living! Thank you for the wonderful post.

  2. This looks wonderful. I've never made duck! And I'm curious about your dry-sauteed beans.

  3. What a great meal, especially the duck. I've never cooked duck, but if do, I'll remember the tip about the fan. The wine sounds so good, too.
    I’ve an award for you (The Versatile Blogger Award), please come and pick it up when you’re free.

  4. This rocks! I have never cooked duck before and this seems like a call to action.

    I have had a couple Maori-made wines and loved them. The Maori espouse a very location-centric relationship with the land much like Native Americans. In winemaking I beleive this is quite an asset.

    Thank You!


  5. WOW Pam, thanks for your lovely comments on our wines! Glad to hear you enjoyed them so much. The dish sounds fabulous - will have to try it with a Syrah soon. All the best


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