Sometimes I get hit by a random food idea that I simply can’t shake. Peanut Butter and Jelly Duck Bao was one of those. In my head, I could taste the combination. Beautiful fatty duck slices, sticky sweet jam, a spicy peanut sauce rounding it out. I wanted it so bad! Cooking complicated meals during the week is a bonus of being made redundant. Ordinarily, it’d be months before I had a spare weekend to cook something like this, but now I can (almost) any time! So on a Friday without plans, I decided to make dinner and the couch Date Night, by making something a little fancier than the norm. Right from the get-go you should know that this is a very involved meal, if you want to do things right and get the full richness of flavours in your jelly and the best fluffiness in homemade steam buns. Good things sometimes really do take time. It is worth it, I promise you that. BUT…if you are time poor, but still love the idea of these PB&J Duck Bao, I won’t complain too much if you simplify things..
So, onto my complicated, enhanced version. I always use the Momofuku Steam Buns recipe for making bao, but I find I always need at least ½ cup more flour than their recipe. But use their amount first, and add more if the dough is too sticky. In this instance, instead of rendered pork fat, I used rendered duck fat.
Given we aren’t in stone fruit season, I decided to make my plum jam with prunes, instead of fresh plums. Given how classic a combination duck and plums are, I didn’t want to deviate for my jam. I always have prunes in the house because I’m a bit of a nanna and love them on my porridge. Finish it off with a simple spicy peanut butter sauce and you have gold! I was going to make my own pickles to go with these, but time got away from me.
Serve with buns, pickle and parsley and coriander leaves and you have a perfectly balanced but rich PB&J Duck Bao.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Duck Bao
½ duck (if you are making a simpler version, 1 large duck breast, skin on)
1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp salt
2 litres water
1/2tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Prune and Onion Jelly
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp salt
2 cups red wine (such as Shiraz or Cab Sauv)
200g prunes, roughly chopped
1L duck stock (included in recipe)
½ cup brown sugar
Spicy Peanut Sauce
½ cup peanut butter
½ tbsp. freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp kecap manis
2 tbsp sriracha (or to taste)
Fillet the breast and thigh piece of the duck, keeping the skin intact. Cover and place in the fridge until later. Remove the fat and skin from the rest of the duck. In a frypan over medium heat, fry the excess skin and fat until the fat renders out. Drain from pan and allow to cool to room temperature. Start making the steam buns, if you are. Read the instructions fully, to understand how much rising time you’ll need all up.
Using a big sharp knife, carefully cut the duck bones up at the joints and fry them off in a stock pot until brown. Add 2 litres of water, the onion, bay leaf, garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour, skimming the foam off the top from time to time. Leave to cool half an hour, then pass through a sieve. You can remove and shred any meat from the duck pieces and reserve for another use – or just discard along with the vegetables and bones.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over a medium-low heat and cook the onion slices until translucent, around 5 minutes. Add the salt to allow them to sweat, and cook for a further 10 minutes. They should soften even more, but not colour. Add the prunes, duck stock and brown sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring well, then cover and reduce to a simmer, and leave to cook for around an hour and a half, or until reduced by half. Alternatively, skip the stock making step and use good chicken stock - or just use a good store-bought plum jam or plum sauce.
While this cooks, remove the duck from the fridge to take the chill off, and preheat the oven to 150C. Should take about half an hour.
When the oven is ready, heat a frypan to high. Season the duck on both sides with salt and pepper and place skin side down on the heat. Leave to cook for 5-6 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the fat has rendered. Flip over and cook a further 5 minutes. Spoon some prune jelly over the top of the duck breast and place in the oven to finish cooking for 15 minutes. Take the lid off the prune jelly and keep cooking to reduce to a sticky, jamlike consistency.
Meanwhile, start steaming your buns and make the peanut butter sauce. Add all of the spicy peanut butter sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and place over low heat, stir here and there until smooth and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated. Should be about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and set aside.
Remove the duck breast, cover with a piece of foil and rest for 5 minutes. Slice into thin strips and serve with the prune and onion jelly, peanut butter sauce, pickles, herbs and steam buns.