I love duck. It’s meaty and flavorful, so much more so than chicken and even turkey. With these other poultries, particularly chicken, simply relying on their own flavors can be a bit bland—you need to give them a healthy dose of other flavors to make them really great. I’m not saying I’d turn my nose up at a simple roasted chicken for dinner, but if you want something super flavorful that doesn’t require a whole lot of effort on your part duck is where it’s at.
The almost instinctive way to prepare duck is the once trendy, then passé, now maybe trendy again, but nevertheless classic dish—duck a l’orange. Traditionally prepared by roasting a whole (young) duck, it’s served with an orange-flavored brown sauce made from a dark stock, sugar, and peel and juice of Seville oranges. With duck being such a rich meat—and it is thought of as “meat” like beef rather you’re your typical bird, with the breasts being served no more than medium-rare, particularly with wild fowl—the intense tartness and acidity of those sour oranges balances its fattiness. That said, with Seville/sour/bitter oranges having such a short season, substituting them for a regular navel or Valencia orange is the natural alternative, adding a touch of vinegar or even lime juice to help add some sparkling sour to the dish.
The possibilities of duck extend so much further beyond that of this French classic (or Italian, depending on who you ask), but try as I did I couldn’t help myself this time. This is my single-serving twist on duck l’orange. Rather than a whole duck I go for the leg; the price per pound compared to the whole duck, or even just the breast, can’t be beat, not to mention it has incredible flavor. I marinade it with orange zest and juice, a bit of turbinado sugar for smoky sweetness, and oil before cooking it slowly in the oven until it’s almost like duck confit—meltingly tender and succulent meat with crispy, crispy skin. The sauce is a quick one of more orange, a little vinegar, and some beef stock (if you have an already-opened carton in the fridge that’s great, otherwise something from concentrate or cube is fine) that deglazes the pan once the duck is finished. I use regular oranges here, but if Seville/sour oranges are available—usually sometime between November and February—use them, replacing the vinegar in the sauce with more of the juice, and upping the honey ever so slightly.
I make it the perfect one-pan meal by tumbling some halved baby potatoes into the pan partway through cooking. They brown and crisp so wonderfully that they’re almost glowing with a golden halo, and if you’ve never had potatoes cooked in duck fat you are so missing out.
Try this quick and speedy take on the classic duck l’orange when you have a night to yourself and need a little solitary indulgence. You’ll look forward to your next night alone after this—trust me.
And if you are fortunate enough to get Seville oranges give my Seville Orange Crème Brûlée a try. So good.
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