Tea smoking is a technique you can use to add a subtle, smoked flavor to dishes. The smoke flavor you'll get will be softer than a hardwood smokiness you may be more familiar with.
I refined my recipe after consultation with Matthew Barros, Executive Chef at Myers and Chang in Boston's South End. They serve a tea-smoked pork rib and we got to see part of the smoking process on our most recent visit to the restaurant. They dry-rub the meat with spices and salt, then smoke the ribs slowly to cook them. At service, they brown and crisp up the ribs to order.
I applied these principles to some duck breasts that I got from Yellow House Farm (well I actually got a whole duck and removed the breasts for this recipe). I scored the breasts, rubbed them with salt and spices and let them sit at room temperature for about 90 minutes. Then I scored the skin and seared the breasts in a skillet to render out some of the fat and brown the skin. Finally, I smoked them, let them rest and served them up! In the future, I'm going to switch the smoking and searing steps so the skin ends up a little crispier at meal time.
I'm including some action shots so you can see how everything looked during the process. I served the duck over French lentils with braised swiss chard and a blood orange and endive salad.
Tea-Smoked Duck Breasts
serves 2-3, depending on what you're serving them with
For the duck:
- 2 duck breasts, about 6-8 oz. each
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- salt, pepper and crushed coriander for seasoning
The tea-smoking blend:
- 1/2 cup rice
- 2 tablespoons black tea
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
The tea smoking rig:
- a wok (a wok is traditional, but you can use shallow pot or stock pot)
- LOTS of aluminum foil
- a rack that will fit in your wok or pot and will hold the duck in one layer
- pot lid
Score the skin side of the duck breast in a cross-hatch pattern. Rub the duck with the salt, sugar, pepper and coriander. Set aside for at least one hour. Put the duck in the fridge if you're going to wait longer than an hour.
When you are ready to cook, set up your smoker: line the wok with multiple layers of foil. Make sure the foil is long enough to wrap over the lid - you'll want to seal in all the smoke. Mix together the smoking ingredients and place them in the bottom of the smoker. Place the rack over the smoking mixture.
Turn on the exhaust fan and turn off your smoke detectors. Seriously.
Place a saute pan over medium-high heat. Wipe any moisture off the duck breasts and sear them, skin-side-down in the pan until the skin is dark brown. Lay the duck breasts on the rack in the wok.
Place the wok over medium-high heat until the rice mixture starts to smoke. Cover the pan and crimp the foil over the lid to seal in the smoke.
Turn the heat down to low and smoke the duck for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the duck covered for another 10 minutes. The duck will be medium-rare. If it's too rare for you (check with a quick cut in the no-skin side of the breast), place the duck in a 350 oven for 5-10 minutes until it's cooked to your liking.
Open the smoker and set the duck breasts on a plate or cutting board to rest for another 5-10 minutes.
Slice the breast into thin slices and serve.
Note: I think next time I will flip the searing and smoking steps. Let me know if you try it.