Duck à l’Orange is probably one of the most classic, yet sadly most bastardized dishes of all of French cuisine. Done right, it’s incredible; crunchy skin with incredibly juicy meat offset by a semi-sweet orange sauce. Done wrong, you’ll end up eating fatty rubbery skin, tough meat drowned in an overly sweet sauce.
Versions of duck à l’orange have been around forever. Just this morning I was reading a cookbook written by Louis Eustache Ude in the early 1800s. His version featured roasting a duck with a small bitter orange variety known as ‘bigarade’ in France, or marmalade oranges. The idea was to keep a sweet and sour balance to the sauce. This trend continued in the 1940s and 50s in France. But somewhere during the 1970s and 80s duck à l’orange became known as duck cooked in any method buried under an overly sweet sticky sauce. And then disappeared into the lost annals of great cuisine.
My easy version is a return to the classics. Click here to watch my video recipe.
Easy Classic French Duck à l’Orange, My Method
Because of its richness, duck à l’orange always has a celebratory feel to it. My 9-year-old son Beau licks his lips in anticipation when he knows that I am making it for lunch. Many chefs recommend roasting 2 ducks for 4 people but I find that too much. I usually serve 4 to 6 people on 1 duck. At the end of the recipe, I offer 3 easy variations on the basic theme. Be sure to give them all a try.
Easy Classic French Duck à l'Orange, My Method
Because of its richness, duck à l'orange always has a celebratory feel to it. My 9-year-old son Beau licks his lips in anticipation when he knows that I am making it for lunch. Many chefs recommend roasting 2 ducks for 4 people but I find that too much. I usually serve 4 to 6 people on 1 duck. At the end of the recipe, I offer 3 easy variations on the basic theme. Be sure to give them all a try.
- 1 onion peeled and diced
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped
- 5 pound duck thawed, if necessary
- to taste salt and black pepper
- 1/2 orange
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Arrange the onion and carrots over the bottom of a deep roasting pan. Prick the duck skin all over with a fork (this will help release the fat stored beneath the skin while the bird roasts slowly). Season liberally with salt and pepper both inside and out, then stuff the cavity with the garlic, orange half, and thyme. Set the duck, breast-side down, in the pan and roast for 1-1/2 hours.
Transfer the duck to a baking sheet. Very carefully, pour off as much duck fat as possible from the pan into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Sprinkle the flour into the pan, then stir in the stock and wine. Return the duck to the pan, breast-side up. Continue to roast until golden brown, about 1 hour.
Transfer the duck back to the baking sheet. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a saucepan and scrape the dripping and vegetables from the roasting pan into the strainer. Discard the solids. Add the orange juice and marmalade to the saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until it reduces to a sauce consistency, about 10 minutes.
Cut the duck in half along the backbone using poultry shears. Cut along the breastbone to split it into two pieces. Trim any parts of the rib cage off. Separate the legs from the breast. You can also separate the legs and thighs and slice the duck breast if you are inclined to do so. Divide the duck meat between four warm dinner plates, spoon the sauce over, and serve.
DUCK IN CIDER (CANARD RÔTI AU CIDRE):
Replace the orange juice with fresh apple cider and serve with sautéed apple slices.
DUCK WITH GREEN PEAS (CANARD RÔTI AUX PETITS POIS):
Substitute an equal amount of stock for both the orange juice and marmalade. Add 12 ounces of cooked green peas, thawed if frozen, to the final sauce.
DUCK WITH TURNIPS (CANARD RÔTI AUX NAVETS):
Substitute stock for both the orange juice and marmalade and add it all in Step 3 along with 12 small peeled turnips (or 6 large turnips, halved) and the chopped turnip greens.
This recipe and 75 other classic recipes can be found in my new cookbook ‘French Cooking for Beginners’ available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers.