The holiday season is in full swing & on my menu this year is a popular French duck dish: Duck à l’Orange! A roasted & crispy skinned whole duck served with a citrusy bigarade sauce. This recipe is wonderful for smaller holiday gatherings & an intimate Christmas dinner, when a whole turkey is just too big.
Each duck serves between 3 to 4 guests, depending on the size & type of duck (aim for a 5-pound duck). This recipe can easily be doubled to accommodate two ducks. I recommend using mallards or pintail ducks, which yield a higher fat content & lend more flavour to the meat. Although the traditional recipe uses “bitter oranges” which can be tricky to find, this sauce uses regular oranges & is loaded with citrus goodness. Think orange zest, freshly squeezed orange juice, orange bitters & orange liqueur!
For the sauce using a store bought beef stock will work, but if you have time to make a homemade duck or beef stock this effort will go a long way. After all, the sauce is the star of this dish! Lastly, for maximum crispiness on the skin, the recipe calls for rotating the duck few times throughout the cooking process to ensure it crisps & roasts evenly.
Have the merriest Christmas & happiest New Year! xo
Duck à l’Orange
1 whole 5 pound mallard or pintail duck
2 large oranges
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 medium white onions, quartered
2 carrots, peeled & diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup quality apple cider vinegar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 cups low sodium beef, veal or duck stock
1 tablespoon corn starch
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
4 to 6 dashes orange bitters
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 425(f) degrees. Carefully score the duck skin, ensuring not to cut through the skin into the meat.
- Fill a large pot with water & bring to a boil. Peel the zest off the oranges & thinly slice into strips. Supreme the oranges into segments & refrigerate until ready to serve. Add the orange zest to the boiling water & blanch for 10 minutes.
- Remove the orange zest using a strainer & transfer to a paper towel. To the same pot blanch the duck for 3 to 5 minutes. The skin should visibly tighten up. If you do not have a large enough pot, simply pour the boiling water over the duck in the sink.
- Remove the duck & pat dry with a paper towel. Season the skin generously with salt & pepper.
- In a small roasting pan toss together the onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, salt & pepper. Place the duck on top of the vegetables breast side down & roast for 25 minutes.
- Lower the heat to 350(f) degrees & rotate the duck breast side up. Cook for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, until a thermometer inserted in the breast reaches 165(f) degrees.
- As the duck roasts, prepare the sauce. To a saucepan over medium heat add the sugar & vinegar. Simmer until the sugar begins to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the orange juice & stock. Bring to a boil & let simmer until the flavours mend, about 10 minutes.
- Make a slurry with the cornstarch & add to the pot followed by the orange zest. Continue cooking until thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Whisk in the Grand Marnier, orange biters & butter. Season to taste with salt.
- Spoon the sauce over the duck & garnish with orange segments. Slice & serve with additional sauce.