A featured dish at many Beijing restaurants, the trick to preparing Peking duck is to make sure the duck is completely dry before roasting.
1 5-pound duck
8 cups water
3 tablespoons honey
1½ tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
Thaw the duck and remove the inner organs. Rinse through with cold water, and pat dry.
Take a long piece of string and tie a knot at the end of each of the duck's legs to form a loop. (This will make it easy to hang the duck from a hook or nail.)
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot or a wok. Stir in the honey, rice vinegar, and rice wine. Turn down the heat and simmer the sauce, covered, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Ladle the honey and water mixture over the skin of the duck several times, making sure the skin is completely coated. Dry the duck by hanging in a cool place for at least 4 hours, keeping a pan underneath to catch any drippings.
While the duck is drying, preheat the oven to 375°F. Fill the bottom of a roasting pan with water (this prevents the fat from splattering when you remove the duck from the oven). Place the duck on the roasting pan, breast side up. Roast for 30 minutes, turn over and roast for 30 minutes on the other side, and then turn and roast a final 10 minutes on the breast side, or until the duck is cooked. Cool and carve into thin slices. Serve on Mandarin Pancakes (page 268) brushed with hoisin sauce.