Duck is perhaps one of the most under used poultry and also perhaps one of the most intimidating if you’ve never cooked it before. It’s just not something that we eat a lot of here in the U.S. People think it’s too fatty, or are afraid to eat it a little pink with all of the preconceptions we have about chicken, but this recipe, a twist on the French classic, Duck a l’orange, is deliciously rich and yet exotically familiar.
Using blood oranges instead of a traditional navel orange here adds an interesting twist and a beautiful color to the finish sauce. Blood oranges, also being slightly tarter than some oranges also help to counter balance the richness of the duck breast.
I deviated from the traditional recipe slightly by using white balsamic vinegar in my version of the orange sauce. I liked pairing the sweetness of the balsamic, but used white as to preserve the beautiful deep red color of the blood orange juice. Any light and fruity vinegar would work though. I’ve used sherry vinegar here and even a good quality apple cider vinegar would be excellent. During the reduction the vinegar really mellows out and you get hints of acidity without all of the acrid quality that raw vinegar sometimes has.
Even against the wow factor that duck has, the sauce is really the star of this dish. It elevates a special occasion meal even further with ease. Make a larger batch and use the leftovers to top steamed vegetables or roasted squash. The sauce is subtle enough to pair with poached chicken, but bold enough to stand up to a grilled steak.
Finally, the supremed orange wedges and toasted pistachios add little jewels of color and bursts of flavor to every bite.
Crispy Duck Breast “A L’orange” with Blood Oranges and Toasted Pistachios
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c white balsamic vinegar
2 T orange zest
1 lg. shallot, minced
2 c blood orange juice
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 duck breasts, 10 oz. ea.
4 T butter, cold
2 oranges, supremed
1/2 c toasted pistachios
Salt & Pepper to taste
- In a medium dry sauce pan brown sugar until it liquefies and turns a light amber color. This will happen quickly at the end, so be careful not to burn it.
- Into caramelized sugar mix in vinegar, shallots, orange zest, orange juice, and broth. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium high. Continue to simmer until sauce thickens to the consistency of maple syrup, about 25-30 minutes. You will have approximately a cup of liquid left in the pot.
- Meanwhile, score the skin of your duck breasts, creating a cross hatch pattern with a knife, going as deep as you can into the skin without cutting the meat of the breast. This will help the duck fat to render and also assist in creating a crispy breast. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
- In a large preheated on high, place the duck breast skin side down into the dry pan. Sear on this side for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until the skin has crisped and browned. Before flipping your breasts, remove and drain excess oil from the pan. Flip and return duck breasts to pan cooking for an additional 6 to 8 minutes to desired doneness, 125 degrees for medium rare, and 130 for medium, allowing duck to rest on a warm platter for 10 minutes before slicing.
- Slice breast on a slight diagonal and return to warmed platter, mixing any run off juices into your reducing sauce.
- To finish the sauce, remove the reduced mixture from the heat and slowly stir in your cold butter in 1 T increments. This will further thicken your sauce and add richness and sheen.
- Spoon warm sauce over sliced duck and garnish with reserved orange supremes and toasted pistachios.
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About the Author
A former baker, chef, caterer, and a forever foodie, John is now a writer and essayist, who has written for newspapers and magazines across the country, and enjoys spending his spare time traveling and collecting bow ties.