A Simple Duck Breast Recipe
Unfortunately for ducks, I am a duck fan – that is I like eating duck. I really think it is one of the most superior tasting meats available. Of course, pretty much anything with crispy skin and tender meat is going to rank pretty high. When it comes to cooking duck, a duck breast recipe comes to mind first. Don’t get me wrong, roasting a whole duck is a treat, but for the middle of the week, a few duck breasts cook up relatively quickly and I can get dinner on the table in decent time. Although there are a lot of great ways to cook duck breast, like in a duck breast curry, there is a classic that is worth knowing how to make – a simple duck breast recipe for Duck a’la Orange. This is the fancy name for duck breast with orange sauce. Duck goes so well with this sauce it is no wonder it is classic.
When we think of cooking classic dishes, there is an underlying feeling that anything made classically will take a very long time and have a really long list of ingredients to boot. Fortunately for us, this is not the case for duck a’la orange made with duck breast. We will only need the duck breast and 5 more ingredients, not including salt and pepper. Searing a duck breast is easy, too. Score the skin. Season with salt and pepper. Place the breasts in a cold pan. Place the pan on medium heat and let the skin get crispy. Flip the breasts and cook until medium well – a minimum of 165F on an instant read thermometer.
One interesting part of making the orange sauce is that it is made with a gastrique. A gastrique is when vinegar and sugar are boiled together until the sugar is a beautiful amber. A gastrique delivers tartness and caramel notes that, on its own might not seem that appealing, but when added to a sauce that contains fruit really makes the flavor of the fruit in the sauce shine. We don’t see that many sauces that use a gastrique, but if a fruity/savory sauce is being made, a gastrique should certainly be considered as an addition. Since the gastrique is also syrup, it helps add body to a sauce, too. And we love our sauces to have body.
Of course, in an orange sauce, fresh orange juice and some orange supremes are needed as well as a dash of orange liquor. These ingredients bring all the orange flavor the sauce will need. The rest is just chicken or vegetable stock. If you weren’t interested in orange, imagine what you could do with cherries and some cherry liquor! There are many fruits that can be used to make a variety of different sauces – fig, date, lemon, etc. The meaty flavor of duck goes very well with any of these fruit sauces.
Here is my duck breast recipe for duck a’la orange.
- 6 boneless duck breasts
- 8 tbsp of sugar
- 3/4 cup of white wine vinegar
- 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 oranges
- 2 tbsp of orange liquor
- butter (optional)
- In a small pot, stir the vinegar and sugar together. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Allow the mixture to boil until the sugar just starts to turn amber. Turn off the heat and add 2 ice cubes to the gastrique to cool it quickly. Set the gastrique aside.
- Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breasts in in a cross hatch pattern being careful to cut only the skin. Technically, you don't have to do this, but it helps render the fat from the skin.
- Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper.
- Place the duck breasts skin side down in a cold pan large enough to hold the duck breasts. Place the pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Let the skin of the duck breast slowly cook until deep golden brown and crispy - about 15 minutes. When the skin is crisp, flip the breasts and continue cooking until the meat is medium well - at least 165F on an instant read thermometer, another 18-12 minutes depending on thickness. If your duck breasts are large, after searing them, you can finish cooking them in a 400F oven until they are cooked through - 10-12 minutes. Make sure your pan is appropriate for cooking in the oven.
- When the duck breasts are done, remove them from the pan to a plate and tent them with foil to keep them warm. Pour off the duck fat from the pan reserving for another use (like fried potatoes!).
- Zest the oranges. Using a reamer, juice one of the oranges. Using a sharp knife, peel the other orange and cut out the orange supremes reserving any juice in a bowl.
- Place the pan that the duck breasts have been cooked in on the stove over medium heat. Add the stock and bring to a simmer scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the orange juice and orange zest. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce by 1/2.
- Drizzle in the gastrique to taste.
- Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the orange liquor. Bring the sauce back to a simmer being careful as the alcohol could flame. Let the sauce reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.
- Add the orange supremes and heat them through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- If you want a richer sauce, remove the sauce from the heat and 2 tbsp of cold butter swirling it in the sauce.
- Slice the duck breast thinly and spoon the sauce over the duck. Serve hot.
- Duck a'la orange is nice served of wild rice.
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