When I found whole duck on sale at our local supermarket, I got very excited. And I remembered that we had an episode up our sleeve not yet launched on the wider Crash Test Kitchen viewing public.
Friends and family were coming over for dinner this week and I had planned to do a simple roast chicken – but I had never cooked a whole duck before, and I want to have one next Christmas. So this would be the trial run.
It might be a tad retro, but duck a l’orange remains synonymous with birds that swim. A while back we did a show for the Word of Mouth blog that involved duck breasts and a recipe by Stefan Reynaud. Recipe-wise, what I’ll detail here is how we did the breasts-only version shown in the video, and how I handled the whole bird – a Gressingham duck in our case.
There is a bit of variation in the orange sauce, but in both cases its basic ingredients are the pan juices of the duck and fresh orange juice. These are not complicated recipes – I’m just being as detailed as I can.
4 duck breasts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbs honey
200ml soy sauce
Zest two of the oranges. Juice three of them, and take the peeled segments from one. When segmenting that last orange, don’t just break it apart by hand – try to cut between the membranes, as shown in the video.
Slash the fatty side of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern, through the skin and fat so the flesh shows through – best to do this while they’re still chilled as the firm flesh makes it easier to slice neatly.
Mix the orange juice with the zest, cinnamon, honey and soy sauce. Place the duck breasts in a dish, skin side up, pour over the sauce. Chill for 24 hours.
Pan-fry the duck, skin-side down, for 10 minutes on a gentle heat (the fat needs to melt and brown). Drain off the fat and return the meat to the pan, other side down. Add the orange segments, half of the marinade, and allow to reduce for five minutes.
Remove the meat and whisk in the butter to make a sauce. Slice breasts attractively as in video – don’t just serve them whole.
Best not to keep the leftover marinade – it’s had raw meat sitting in it for 24 hours. Though you could probably get away with marinating something else in it if used straight away.
1 duck approx 2kg/4lb, giblets removed
Good roasting potatoes, peeled, enough for everyone
Greens of choice (cook to your liking)
Soy sauce (optional)
Orange marmalade, a spoonful (optional)
Juice of 4 oranges
1 cup white wine that you like
- Preheat oven to 125 degrees C (approx 250 F).
- Get a toothpick or other precision skewer and prick the duck’s skin all over but NOT STICKING THE SKEWER STRAIGHT IN – go almost parallel with the skin, through it and into the fat but not the flesh. This will let the fat drain out during cooking, which is crucial. Remove any fat around the duck’s openings – this may already have been done.
- Rub the duck all over with good salt. Then lay it in a baking tray breasts-down. Yes, breasts-down.
- Give the duck 3 hours in the oven, checking every hour or so that the fat is still draining OK (if not, re-prick). If blood leaks out into the fat, don’t try to pour it off or otherwise disturb it. Just let it congeal/cook in the fat and then fish it out as a lump. This will keep your fat and juices clean for later use.
- When the duck’s had 2 hours, boil your peeled potatoes until they are on the brink of falling apart, then drain them. You could scratch them up with a fork before boiling if super-keen.
- After the duck’s had 3 hours, drain off the fat into a heat-safe container: preferably one of those jugs used to separate fat and juices, and preferably see-through. Turn the oven up to 180 C (350 F) Return the duck to the pan, breasts UPWARDS this time, and pop it back in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Separate the fat and juices, reserving both. Use your special jug, or get a turkey baster and suck the juices from under the fat. Or just pour off the fat carefully.
- Get your potatoes in an oven tray that’s deep enough and drizzle the fat over them. Shake them around to coat. If you’re out of trays or oven space, you may have to fit them in with the duck. Put the potatoes in the oven – after about 30 minutes give them another basting and turn them over.
- Once that 45 minutes is over, get the duck out – it should be looking brown and crisp. Check for the usual signs of uncookedness (highly unlikely unless you’ve messed up the temperatures). Cover the duck with foil and rest it on a plate. Give the potatoes more time if they don’t look golden-brown enough for you.
- Now for the sauce. In a saucepan combine the duck juices (not the fat), orange juice and white wine. The optional bits: marmalade adds a bit of tartness, and soy sauce will darken the sauce and make it a bit more salty. Bear in mind that you salted the duck before cooking, and this will come through in the juices. I’d lean towards leaving the soy sauce out.
- Simmer the sauce fairly rapidly until it reduces and becomes a bit syrupy. Do this to your liking. While reducing, don’t panic about the duck and potatoes going cold – they’ll be fine. You could pop them back in the switched off but still-warm oven if you are that worried or have messed up the sauce and need to buy time.
- Get your greens going – if you’ve chosen broccoli, snow peas, asparagus etc. they won’t take long.
- Carve up the duck to your liking – look at all that lovely, rich, brown meat. It’s nice to separate off the joints, and remove the breasts whole then slice them up retaining a bit of skin on each slice. Adorn each plate with a selection of cuts. Add the lovely golden-brown potatoes and your greens. We served the orange sauce in a small teapot and let the guests pour it over themselves.