Duck a l’orange is undoubtedly one of the timeless classics of French cuisine but sadly preparing it involves many steps and plenty of time. This recipe for Duck breast a l’orange, on the other hand, works with the very best part of the bird, the magret or breast, offers all the flavor and takes about half an hour to make once the meat has been marinated. Duck breast a l’orange was also the last savory course I served on my New Year’s Eve supper menu, following the octopus and the lobster.
2 large large duck magrets or 4 smaller duck breasts
2 Tbs cognac
4 Tbs of light honey or sugar sirup
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
Clean and score the duck breast: Remove the meat from the packaging, wash well and pluck any stray feathers, trim if there is any excess fat or silver skin on the meat. Pat dry the duck breasts and score the skin with a sharp knife without reaching the meat. Generously sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper on both sides.
Marinate: Place the zest and juice of one large orange in a big ziplock bag, put in the duck breasts and a couple of fresh thyme sprigs. Refrigerate for 4 hours of over night.
Cook the duck: It is best to use a cast iron pan to cook the duck breast. Place the meat skin side down in a cold pan and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes per side for a larger breast. Cooking time of course greatly depends on the size of the breast. Don’t poke the meat but use tongues to turn it. For best results use a meat thermometer (125F for medium-rare).
Transfer the breast to a cutting board and cover it foil, let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Make the sauce: Drain the oil from the pan, leaving only 4 tablespoons of it in. Deglaze the pan over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of cognac. Add the vinegar, the honey or sugar sirup, 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and the zest of 1 orange to the pan. Add the prepared supremes (the flesh between the membranes) of 2 oranges, throw in a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, shake the pan gently, lower the heat and let the sauce thicken to a sirupy consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Plate and serve: Slice the duck breast, plate them as suggested on the photo and spoon over the sauce and the orange supremes. Serve with Gratin Dauphinois.
Wine Suggestions: Côtes-du-Rhône, Pinot Noir or Barolo.