Tomorrow starts December. While signifying the holiday month, it also signals that it’s Departure’s December Peking Duck Dinner month! This is a special dinner menu only available every December! This has been a tradition for several years – I think starting from 4 years ago?
So from Dec 1 – Dec 30, Chef Gregory Gourdet at Departure will do his 24 hour preparation of a peking duck that involves curing the duck in 7 spice (cinnamon, star anise, allspice, coriander, clove, nutmeg, fennel and chili), salt and sugar overnight. Then, after the initial bath, the duck gets a second quick flavor bath when it is dipped in a blanching liquid of Shoaxing rice wine, honey, salt and 7 spice.
Chef Gregory then hangs the whole ducks for 24 hours. This will dry the skin so that it both will help concentrate the flavor and is a step towards what will be crispy skin when it arrives on your table after being next roasted for an hour and then flash fried!
The carved duck is served with pickled kumquats and a side of duck fat mandarin pancakes in a steamer to keep it warm. The accompaniments include little dishes of cucumbers, sliced scallions, house made plum and hoisin sauces to make your own mini wraps with all these ingredients.
My only complaint was with the pancakes being too thick and I wanted more crispy skin. I shared this as a meal for two, but for a meal for four I would suggest ordering some additional appetizers before the duck main course appears unlike us who just had cocktails and wine.
After the carving, while the main meat is being swaddled into your do it yourself mini pancakes for your main course, the kitchen takes any of the leftover duck – every single little shred from of the duck from innards to drippings is used – to make a duck fat fried rice to be served.
There is only a limited amount of Peking Ducks cured each night. So you need to make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance that includes mentioning you want to reserve one of these ducks. The 2 duck courses, which serve 2-4 people, are a total of $92 for everything mentioned.
You can read the story about how Chef Gregory listed Peking Duck as one of the 10 dishes that has made his career for an article from First We Feast Gregory Gourdet The 10 Dishes That Made My Career (as of Feb 2014, so admittedly before his Top Chef season).
Make sure you order dessert to finish off after all that duck for the best delicious ending. These desserts shown below are from last year so probably are not on this year’s menu, but they give you a hint at how fabulous the desserts at Departure are and they are an underrated secret here in Portland.
So who wants to have duck for the holiday, especially Departure’s December Peking Duck? Have you had Peking Duck, and what do you think of it?
PS The crazy lil sticker I have of Chef Gregory is from a mobile app game Kitchen Rush you can get from the iTunes store where you can play Chef Gregory and chop through stuff, ha ha.