Welcome to our series “Dished,” in which we ask the chefs behind some of the most creative dishes out there to explain the inspiration behind their inventions. This week, we’re talking to executive chef Danny Trace of iconic Texas restaurant Brennan’s of Houston about his Texas Creole-inspired Peking Duck recipe.
What was your inspiration for the Creole-style Peking duck? When looking at grills and smokers — all fairly common in Houston and Texas — we came across the website for the Town pig roasting oven. We thought we wanted to serve whole pigs for the table, but then we found out you could roast ducks in the oven as well, and got this idea that we wanted to do a Peking-style duck dish. So Carl (the GM) and I went to New York to try to find the best Peking Duck, and we ended up at Buddakan. We tasted their dish and came back to Houston to try to make our own version.
Tell us a bit about the classic Peking duck preparation methods, and how yours differ. We use the same general techniques, such as blowing the skin away from the meat to get the crispy skin, we just use Creole ingredients and flavors as opposed to Chinese. We toyed around with different sugars, and now we alternate between using honey and sorghum, and we blanch the ducks in a honey citrus syrup. We stuff the ducks and let them air dry, and then we roast them in the oven.
Tell us about all the components of the finished dish. Depending on what’s in season, we tweak the components. It’s always served over a fried rice; sometimes it’s crawfish, right now it’s blue crab, it could be duck, rabbit, etc. We also top it with an Old Fashioned Duck Sauce, which is kind of like a L’Orange sauce, but made with elements of an Old Fashioned—Bulleit bourbon, citrus, a bit of bitters. Then we garnish with mirlitons, duck cracklin’, citrus salad, and a quail egg.