Friday, January 3, 2014

Rescuing Duck à l’Orange

Disappointment is a sticky one, because no one can steal contentment, joy, gratitude, or peace - we have to give it away. – Kristin Armstrong 

Day 3 of 2014 and I’m writing about disappointment already. This time about a restaurant I like – Bistro le Coq. I have been there only twice, but the first time was absolutely stunning. Second time not so much.

My spouse had the same main course he had the first time which was still a show stopper. I opted for Duck à l’Orange, which can be hit or miss at the best of times. It was a miss, at least for me.

The recipe itself is a victim of its own popularity. It was among the first wave of “French” restaurant dishes that gained popularity among the mainstream dining public. Because of that fact, there has been a lot of bastardization along the way. It has a reputation for being bad, actually.

That’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be bad at all. It’s the sauce that’s the killer. There are a thousand recipes for it, and I’m not saying mine is perfection, but at least it doesn’t use marmalade. That is what the fine folks at “le Coq” did. No, no, no...

I had sort of sworn to myself since we went that I would try my own hand at this recipe. The opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a fresh duck sitting in a local grocery. It was all alone, all others being frozen.

You can buy frozen duck breasts at Pete’s Frootique, but at $12 per breast they’re a little pricey. The whole duck was $19.95.

So I grabbed it. But this presented another problem. How do you dress a duck? Luckily I found help in the form of Chef Eric. We dressed our duck at the same time, or almost the same time. I did have to play his video three times.

But it’s easy. For $20 I had 2 breasts and 2 legs. The legs are saved for another meal, probably a duck and bean soup. You also get duck liver as a bonus, and the carcass and neck for stock. 

If you’re really into it, you can render out the fat from all the trimmings in some water and save it in a refrigerated jar to use for cooking. A quick search will show you how to do it. I believe Chef Eric has a how-to video, actually.

So with a little work, you can get quite a lot of value out of one lonely duck, sitting all alone in the meat section of your local grocery store.

Duck à l’Orange
Prep: duck 20 min  |  Cook 20 min  |  Serves 2
2 boneless duck breast, skin on
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
For the orange sauce:
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp Grand Marnier (or brandy)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 orange, peeled and cut into slices
1/4 tsp salt, if needed
Serve with rösti, cooked in the rendered duck fat. Rösti is grated potato, onion, salt and pepper fried like a pancake in a heavy pan. Perfect accompaniment.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Score the skin side of each breast in a criss-cross pattern with a very sharp knife. Season the breasts with salt and pepper. Heat an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the skillet to render off the fat. This will take about 6 minutes. Pour off and reserve the rendered duck fat. Turn the duck breasts over and sear for 2 minute. Turn the fat side down again and place the skillet into the oven to roast for 10-12 minutes, until breasts are close to 160°F. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

Make the sauce by melting the butter and sugar in a small pot. Then whisk in orange juice, stock, zest, Grand Marnier and orange segments. Bring to a boil and reduce to 2/3 original volume. 

Mix the cornstarch with a little water. Whisk into sauce and cook until thickened and the orange slices have broken up. Taste for salt and adjust.

Serve the sauce over the duck breast.


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