California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck

California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck
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About This Recipe

Nestled in the heart of Northern California, Napa and Sonoma valleys are iconic, boasting internationally acclaimed vineyards. The region’s unique terroir fosters more than just vines; it breathes life into a culinary movement that beautifully mirrors the wine country's essence. Emblematic of this is the California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck.

This dish, a harmonious blend of Napa’s wine-craft and ancient tea smoking, is a love letter to California. Prepared using ingredients that sing the song of the valleys and Sonoma's coastal caress, the duck is a gastronomic masterpiece. The infusion of Zhangcha tea leaves provides a smokiness that’s evocative of the early morning mists enveloping local vineyards.

This signature smokiness, counterpointed by the saltiness of soy sauce, warmth from Szechuan peppercorns, and a gentle tang from rice wine vinegar, is further enriched by aromatic orange zest. Every bite is like savoring the diverse Californian landscape.

But in wine country, the culinary experience finds its zenith when dovetailed with the perfect wine. For the California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck, two wines shine. The first is from Perliss Estate Vineyards: The Serpents—a Sémillon of unparalleled character. Hand-harvested from The Bavarian Lion, its careful aging in Tuscan terra-cotta amphora and neutral French oak barrels gives it a balanced complexity, making it a choice companion for the smoky duck.

If you lean towards red, the timeless Pinot Noir, especially those hailing from Russian River Valley, beautifully complements the dish. Williams Selyem stands as a beacon of quality in this category.

Visualize presenting the California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck at the heart of a wine-themed soirée. Kick off the evening with sparkling wine from Napa, paired with fresh oysters. Transition to a salad, graced with olive oil from B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company. Conclude with a nuanced dessert wine and cheeses from the iconic Cowgirl Creamery.

For those longing for a touch of Napa and Sonoma at home, this dish is your portal. And should you venture to the valleys, the Oxbow Public Market in Napa awaits with its treasure trove of local produce, gourmet delights, and the heartbeat of the community.

In the world of wines, "Napa" or "Sonoma" aren’t just names; they’re a promise of sprawling vineyards, timeless wineries, and palates teased to perfection. The California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck stands as a testament. So, here’s to embarking on a culinary voyage to the heart of wine country with every bite and sip. Cheers!

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Zhangcha Tea

Zhangcha tea, commonly known as Lapsang Souchong, is not just any tea. Hailing from the Fujian province of China, this black tea is dried over pinewood fires, absorbing a distinctive smoky aroma. The unique flavor it brings to dishes is unparalleled. In our California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck, the Zhangcha tea acts as the aromatic backbone, infusing the duck with its signature smokiness. Not only does it enhance the meat's natural flavors, but it also pays homage to traditional Chinese smoking methods while melding harmoniously with the Napa Valley-inspired ingredients.

Achieving the Perfect Tea Smoke

Smoking with tea leaves might sound daunting, but with a few simple steps, it's quite approachable even for a home cook:

  1. Blend for Balance: Ensure a balanced mix of tea leaves, rice, and sugar. This trio acts as the smoking agent, with the tea providing aroma, the rice aiding in combustion, and the sugar caramelizing to give a subtle sweetness.
  2. Seal Tight: Ensure your wok or smoker has a tight-fitting lid. You want to trap the smoke to let the duck absorb the flavors fully.
  3. Medium Heat: Start with a medium-high heat until the tea mixture begins to smoke, then reduce to medium. This ensures consistent smoking without burning the tea mixture.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I substitute Zhangcha tea with another type? While Zhangcha tea provides a distinct smoky flavor, if unavailable, you can substitute it with another smoked tea. However, this may alter the dish's final taste profile.
  2. What if I don't have a smoker? No smoker, no problem! A wok or a deep pan can be an effective substitute. Make sure to use a rack inside to place the duck above the smoking ingredients.
  3. How long can I store leftover smoked duck? Stored in an airtight container, the smoked duck can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. It's best reheated in an oven to retain its crispy skin.
  4. Any suggestions for those with a soy allergy? Coconut aminos or tamari can be effective soy sauce substitutes, offering a similar salty depth. Do note, the flavor may slightly differ.
  5. Which cooking tools are essential for this recipe? A thermometer is handy to ensure the duck reaches the safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Additionally, having a good pair of tongs will assist in handling the duck during the smoking process.

Tips for Success

  1. Fresh is Best: Always opt for a fresh duck over frozen. Fresh duck ensures tender meat and crisped skin upon smoking.
  2. Patience Pays: Don't rush the marination process. Giving the duck ample time to marinate will ensure the flavors penetrate deep, providing a richer taste.
  3. Pair with Purpose: Wine pairings elevate this dish, so don't skip out on the recommended Napa Valley Sémillon or Burgundy Pinot Noir. They'll enhance the smoky, savory flavors of the duck, delivering a full wine country experience.

Recipe Overview

California Sunset Tea Smoked Duck
Lily Anderson
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 1 whole duck (about 4-5 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup of Zhangcha (Lapsang Souchong) tea leaves
  • 1/4 cup of uncooked jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns
  • 4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger piece, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Zest and juice of one orange

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Begin by cleaning the duck, removing any stray feathers and the innards. Pat dry using paper towels.
  2. Mix the sea salt, minced garlic, ginger slices, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar in a bowl. Rub this mixture all over the duck, inside and out, ensuring it is well-coated. Allow the duck to marinate for about 2 hours.
  3. While the duck is marinating, prepare your smoker or wok. Mix the Zhangcha tea leaves, jasmine rice, and brown sugar in a bowl.
  4. Line the bottom of your smoker or wok with aluminum foil. Spread the tea-rice-sugar mixture evenly over the foil.
  5. Place a rack in the smoker or wok, ensuring it's positioned above the mixture.
  6. Once the duck has marinated, place it breast side up on the rack.
  7. Cover the wok or smoker with a lid, ensuring it's well-sealed. Heat over medium-high heat. Once you notice smoke starting to form, reduce to a medium heat.
  8. Smoke the duck for about 45 minutes, making sure to check periodically to prevent burning.
  9. Remove the duck from the smoker/wok and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  10. Carve the duck and garnish with fresh cilantro and orange zest. Drizzle with fresh orange juice before serving.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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