This is a modern rendition of a nineteenth-century recipe that ultimately became the legendary canard a l’orange, though it bears little resemblance to the gloppy 1960s version of duck a l’orange served in this country. This is much lighter and just a little bitter. Citrus and waterfowl are a perfect pair, and they both happen to be in season at the same time. Any skin-on duck breasts will work with this recipe, but I prefer Muscovy or large wild duck breasts.
Serve this dish with roasted or mashed potatoes, polenta, or a wild rice pilaf. A soft white wine is a good choice here, such as a Viognier, a Roussanne, or an oaky Chardonnay.
- 2 pounds duck breasts
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Basic Duck Stock or chicken stock
- Juice of 1 orange, preferably Seville (½ cup)
- 1 shot glass Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, optional
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or sherry vinegar
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- ½ sweet orange, quartered and thinly sliced
- Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator, salt them well, and set them aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Pan sear the duck breasts. You may have to do this in batches. When the breasts are cooked, set them aside skin side up on a cutting board and let them rest, tented with aluminum foil.
- To make the sauce, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan and place the pan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir to combine and make a roux. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is the color of coffee with cream.
- Add a pinch of salt and stir to combine, then slowly stir in the stock, orange juice, liqueur, and vinegar. Everything will spatter at first, but mixture will calm down.
- Add any accumulated juices from the duck to the sauce. Let this boil down until it is a little thinner than the consistency of Thanksgiving gravy.
- Add the sugar, then taste and adjust with salt. If you want a more refined sauce, pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
- To serve, slice the breasts. Spoon some sauce on each plate and top with breast slices. Garnish with the orange zest and orange slices.
Hank Shaw is the author of the new book Duck, Duck, Goose (Ten Speed Press, 2013) and the James Beard award-winning blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
Shaw has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, and his work has appeared in Food & Wine, Organic Gardening, Field & Stream, and The Art of Eating, as well as hunting and conservation magazines such as Delta Waterfowl, California Waterfowl Magazine, and Pheasants Forever.
He lives in the Sacramento, California area. You can learn more about him, and about his extensive tour cooking duck dinners across the US at honest-food.net.