Chinese Duck Pasta with Mushrooms

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Ingredients

2 duck leg quarters, about 1-¼ to 1-½ pounds
1-½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra
1 teaspoon sugar
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into 6 slices
6 cloves garlic, 4 thinly sliced and 2 minced
2 whole star anise
2 large green onions, divided
⅓ cup honey
⅓ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
canola oil
1-½ to 2 cups fresh or reconstituted mushrooms, sliced
scant 1 cup chopped shallots (or yellow onions)
freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Chinese noodles (or other ribbon pasta)

Directions

Prepare the duck. Trim away excess fat from duck leg quarters (reserve it to render fat over low heat in a small sauce pan). Combine Chinese five-spice powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub all over duck. Place duck, ginger slices and the four cloves of sliced garlic into a zippered plastic bag. Marinate, chilled, for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
With aluminum foil, make 2 rimmed trays just large enough to each hold one duck leg and small enough to fit inside a bamboo steamer basket with room for steam to rise around it. Divide the ginger and garlic slices between the trays and add 1 star anise to each. Roughly chop the green portion of a green onion and divide it between the foil trays (thinly slice the rest of the green onion along with the other one and reserve). Arrange the duck legs on top of the aromatics, stack the steamer and place it over a sauce pan with an inch or two of water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to low and steam duck for 45 minutes, keeping an eye on the water level so it doesn’t all boil away.
When duck has been steaming for about 35 minutes, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Combine honey, soy sauce and rice vinegar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil (watch it like a hawk—it will boil over in a heartbeat). Reduce heat and cook down to sauce consistency, stirring frequently, for 10 to 12 minutes. Time this so the duck is ready to go in the oven; otherwise, it will get too thick as it cools.
Arrange duck legs on a rack in a low-sided, lightly oiled roasting pan. Discard the aromatics. Brush both sides of the duck generously with the honey vinegar sauce. Roast duck skin side up for 30 minutes or so, until a quick read thermometer registers 180ºF in the thickest part of the thigh. Pour the rendered duck fat in the bottom of the roasting pan into a small bowl. There may be flakes of caramelized lacquer from the duck skin in it, if you’re lucky.
Transfer duck legs to a plate and let them rest until cool enough to handle. Now comes the tough part: Do not pick up the duck legs and devour them on the spot. You will seriously want to, as will anyone else who wanders into the kitchen. Instead, cut and tear the duck into bite-sized pieces, including the skin. Yes, the skin is fatty. It’s also crispy and delicious. Now you may gnaw on the leftover bones. Share, if you’re feeling generous.
Prepare the dish. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons each of reserved duck fat and canola oil in a large, high-sided skillet or sauté pan (or a wok) over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots and sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Drizzle in a little extra canola oil if needed while cooking—mushrooms love to soak up any kind of fat or liquid—and season with salt and pepper. Return the duck to the pan, along with remaining 2 cloves of minced garlic, and cook until duck is warmed through, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.
Drain cooked pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water, and rinse under running hot water. Add pasta to skillet and toss to combine. Cook for a minute or so, tossing occasionally, adding a little of the pasta water if the dish is too dry. Remove from heat and stir in sliced green onions. Divide among four shallow bowls and serve.

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