One of our favourite dishes is Duck Breast with Orange Sauce. Not difficult to make and the result is always tasty. Use a combination of fresh orange juice, thyme, rosemary, butter, Mandarine Napoléon, Cointreau, chicken stock and/or orange peel to make a tasty, not to sweet sauce. Mandarine Napoléon is preferred because it gives bitterness and depth to the sauce. The juicy meat, the sweetness of the duck and the orange, the nice aromas, the herbs and the velvety mouthfeel of the sauce make this an excellent combination.
Last week we were lucky, very lucky when we spotted Orange Amère on our local market. Bitter Orange! Also known as Seville Orange, Bigarade Orange or Pomerans. Finally! The ideal ingredient to make Orange Curd, Marmalade and of course Orange Sauce.
We bought a handful and as soon as we were at home, we wanted to taste it. The Bitter Orange does not contain much juice, their seize is similar to that of a clementine and the seeds are relatively big. The taste is sweet and gentle at first, and then you have bitterness, some astringency and length. Wow! We rushed to our butcher, bought an excellent magret de canard and later enjoyed a perfect Duck Breast with Orange Sauce.
Bitter Oranges are normally available from late December until the end of February. Ask your greengrocer!
The traditional way of making Confit of Duck is not complex. It’s a bit time consuming and it requires some planning, that’s all. The principle is to cure the meat in salt with various herbs (thyme, cumin, rosemary) and garlic. After 24 hours or so the duck is washed with water, patted dry and then slow cooked in goose or duck fat for several hours. When ready cool and store in fat.
We take a different approach by slow cooking the duck legs in olive oil. The result is remarkable: juicy, full of flavours and aromas, provided you use first class duck (label rouge for instance). If not, the meat can become dry and tough. Another benefit: we don’t cure the meat so it’s not salty at all. We serve the confit with celeriac mash. It’s light, nutty and refreshing compared to a mash made with potatoes.
Best choice is a full bodied, red wine with ripe fruit and smoothness. We decided to open a bottle of Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada 2020 as produced by Casa Relvas. Such a pleasure! Its colour is deep ruby and the aromas made us think of ripe black fruit and dark cherries with some spiciness. The wine is well balanced with a nice structure and smooth tannins. Works very well with the juicy duck and the mash with its creamy texture and lemonish, celery flavours.
What You Need
For the Confit
2 Duck Legs
4 Bay Leaves
For the Celeriac Mash
Slice of Lemon
Take a sheet of aluminium foil and place the leg in the middle. Add lightly crushed juniper berries and two bay leaves. Perhaps some crushed garlic. Add a generous amount of olive oil and make sure everything is covered. Wrap foil around the duck. Take a second sheet of foil and wrap it around the package, making sure it’s closed. Repeat with the second leg. Transfer both packages to an oven at 120 °C or 240 °F. After one hour reduce the heat to 100 °C or 210 °F. After in total 4 to 5 hours, depending on the size of the legs, remove the legs from the oven, open the package and let cool. Then transfer to the refrigerator for use later on.
Heat the oven to 200 °C or 390 °F. Put the legs in an iron skillet, transfer to the oven and 15-20 minutes later the legs are ready. If the skin is not yet crispy, use the grill for 2 or 3 minutes. Another idea is to pull the meat and use it to top a salad.
The Celeriac Mash: clean and dice the celeriac. Cook in minimum water with a nice slice of lemon until nearly done. Remove the lemon and drain. Add cream. Put on low heat for a few minutes; the celeriac should absorb the cream. When the celeriac is done, use a blender to create the puree. Pass through a sieve. Perhaps add extra lemon or cream. Just before serving add white pepper. Serve with freshly grated nutmeg.
Perhaps you’re looking for some extra inspiration menu-wise for the Holiday Season? Let us help you with a few suggestions.
It’s of course great to serve a glass of Champagne, but why not start with a glass of Crémant de Bourgogne or Alsace? Or a Spanish Cava? The fun is that you can buy a slightly more expensive Crémant or Cava and enjoy a refined sparkling wine. Serve with Terrine de Foie Gras on toast or with a small prawn cocktail, served in a peeled tomato.
Scallops with fluffy cauliflower purée is a wonderful combination of flavours. The practical advantage is that you can prepare the purée a day ahead and grilling the pancetta is also something you can do in advance. Serve with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Dry, some acidity, touch of fruit.
Canard à l’Orange, served with steamed Brussels sprouts and potatoes fried in butter: a dish that supports the festive character of your evening: sweetness, a touch of bitterness and crispy, rich potatoes. Enjoy with a beautiful Bordeaux. In general you’re looking for a powerful red wine, with aromas of berries and a touch of oak. The flavour must be round and long with subtle tannins.
We tend to go for the classic combination of Stilton and Port. Spend some money and buy a Late Bottled Vintage Port.
Continue the British tradition and enjoy a slice of Christmas Pudding with a coffee and a glass of Cognac or Calvados. No need to serve the pudding with brandy butter.
Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with Green Pepper Corn, with Sichuan, with Mirin and Soy Sauce or as Canard A l’Orange: the result is always tasty and your guests will be happy. Today we combine duck with figs. Not the most obvious combination because the figs are relatively dry and perhaps not as sweet as the combination requires. We clearly need a bridge between the meat and the fruit. The first idea was to use port, perhaps with some veal or chicken stock. Great idea because of the sweetness and light acidity of the port, but perhaps a bit too much for the figs. Aceto Balsamico comes with acidity and sweetness, so we decided to use it as the base of the sauce, in combination with some stock. While preparing it we noticed that it needed more sweetness, so what to do? Sugar, honey? But couldn’t we add something that would bring sweetness, fruitiness and even tartness? Of course! Good old Cointreau, great idea!
We probably need to say a few words about Aceto Balsamico. You may think it’s overrated and overpriced, this sweet, sugary, dark and mild vinegar. But if you taste original Aceto Balsamico, the one made from grape must and aged for many (25!) years in wooden barrels, then you will be surprised by the intense, concentrated flavour and the dark colour. Always look for I.G.P. (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) or D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta). If this is not mentioned on the bottle, don’t buy it.
A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of your Breast of Duck with Figs. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of berries, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames.
Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold. Fry the duck in a hot, non-stick skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side, straight from the refrigerator. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil is such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover meat. This way the skin remains crispy. Wash the figs and cut in half. Remove some of the fat and fry the figs until lightly caramelised. When ready, remove from the pan, transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven. Add stock, thyme, Aceto Balsamico and Cointreau. Probably two spoons of Aceto Balsamico and three spoons of Cointreau. Taste and adjust. You may want to add some butter to push the flavours and create a lovely velvety mouthfeel. Add duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat, add black pepper, taste, adjust, add the figs, coat them with the sauce and plate up. We served the duck with fresh green peas because they have this lovely light sweet flavour that combines very well with the other ingredients.
Preparing Duck is always a pleasure, whether with green peppers or with Szechuan, the result is tasty and your guests will be happy. So let’s revisit another classic from the 1960’s: Canard A l’Orange is a delicious combination of duck with a multi-layered orange sauce.
So what did we change compared to the 1960’s-recipe? We don’t use a whole duck, due to the lack of availability but also because cooking a whole duck is far more challenging than cooking a whole chicken or turkey. We also don’t use (caramelized) sugar and we use butter instead of flower or corn starch to create a nice, velvety sauce.
A classic wine from the Bordeaux region will be wonderful with your duck. We enjoyed a glass of Château Cap Saint-Martin Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux Le Cabernet d’en face 2017. This wine is made from 100% Cabernet-Sauvignon grapes, which is to be expected for Bordeaux wines from the left bank of the Gironde. Hence the d’en face (opposite or other side) in the name, because Blaye is situated on the right bank of the Gironde (where Merlot is the dominant grape for red wine). In general you’re looking for a wine with soft aromas of dark berries, vanilla and spices. On the palette it should be round with present tannins. A wine that will combine with the sweetness and depth of the sauce in combination with the rich, juicy and slightly sweet duck meat and its crispy skin.
Check the breast of duck for remainders of feathers. Remove the vein on the meat side of the breast (and the odd membrane you don’t like). Put on a dish, cover and transfer to the fridge. Leave in the fridge for a few hours, making sure it’s nice, firm and cold. Fry the duck (straight from the refrigerator!) in a hot, non-sticky skillet for 10-12 minutes on the skin side. Reduce the heat after a few minutes. You don’t need oil or butter, the duck fat will do the trick. Now fry for 2-3 minute on the meat side and remove. Cover with aluminium foil in such a way that the crispy skin is not covered. The foil should only cover the meat. The skin must remain crispy. Clean the orange, make thin zest and press the orange. Remove some of the fat and add stock, a generous amount of zest, orange juice, garlic, thyme and Mandarin Napoleon. Stir and make sure the garlic becomes integrated in the sauce. Allow to reduce by half. Add liquid from the duck. Taste and adjust. Later on butter will be added softening the taste so at this stage the flavours need to be clearly present. You may want to add some mustard to push the flavours and help the sauce emulgate. Add more of the duck’s liquid. Reduce the heat and add cubes of cold butter. Keep stirring, taste, add black pepper, perhaps extra thyme and plate up. We served the duck with green beans (olive oil, freshly grated nutmeg) and fried potatoes.
Think France, think a small restaurant in a small street, nice and simple, no Michelin star in sight. It’s 12.30, time for a quick lunch. You enter the restaurant, take a seat and order today’s dish, the plat du jour. It turns out to be a generous helping of lentils with confit de cuisse de canard and parsley. After having enjoyed your lunch, you think about the joy of good food and the beauty of lentils. Lentille Verte du Puy, such a treat! The combination of the confit, the lentils and the parsley with the sweetness of the shallot and the garlic is elegant, moist and full of flavours.
Feel free to buy ready-made confit. You could of course make it yourself but it is fairly time consuming and not something you would do for two confits only. In our experience most of the confits you can buy (tinned or vacuumed) will be fine. If you’re lucky your local butcher will make his or her own confits. We have included an alternative recipe below.
We suggest a glass of not too complex red wine; a well-balanced wine with notes of red fruit, gentle tannins and not too oaky. We enjoyed a glass of Bordeaux-Supérieur, Château Picon.
What You Need
1 Garlic Glove
Lentils (Lentille Verte du Puy O.P & A.O.C. from Sabarot)
Finely chop one shallot and glaze gently in olive oil. In the mean time check the lentils for small pebbles; wash them. Once the shallot is glazed add the crushed coriander seed and the lentils. Heat and stir for one minutes, as you would do with risotto rice. Add some chicken stock and water (the stock is only intended to give the lentils a small push) and leave to simmer on low heat. When the lentils are nearly done, finely chop the other two shallots and glaze gently in olive oil and in the fat that comes with the confit. In parallel warm the two confits. After a few minutes add the finely chopped garlic to the shallot. Chop the parsley. When the garlic and shallot are nicely soft and sweet, add the parsley, some black pepper and then mix with the lentils. Remove the skin from the confit and serve the duck on top of the lentils. Perhaps serve with a simple green salad.
Alternative Way of Making Confit of Duck
Start by crushing a nice amount of juniper berries. Take a sheet of strong aluminium foil, add some crushed berries, a bay leaf and put one duck leg (skin side up) on top. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Add the remainder of the berries and a second bay leaf. Wrap the meat in foil, making sure it is tightly closed and the foil intact. If not sure wrap with a second piece of foil. Transfer to a warm oven (90° Celsius or 200° Fahrenheit) for at least 8 hours.
Le chef gascon André Daguin, roi du magret de canard, est mort. André Daguin died earlier this month in Auch, France. From 1960 to 1997 he was owner and chef of the Hôtel de France in Auch. He was awarded two Michelin Stars and more importantly for us he put Gascogneon the culinary map. He was one of the leaders of the nouvelle cuisine and a master of foie gras. He was much appreciated by other French chefs and was elected President of Union des Métiers et des Industries de l’Hôtellerie, the French association of people working in hotels, restaurants and bars. His most significant and unparalleled contribution was the invention of Magret de Canard or grilled Duck Breast in 1959. It is one of many reasons why he was a grand chef.
A True Invention
The best known preparations of duck are confit de canard (the legs of the duck cooked in goose fat) and magret de canard, smoked or grilled. As if preparing the whole bird is not something you want to do. When you look for recipes in classic cookbooks like La Cuisinière Provençale by J.- B. Reboul (published in 1897) and in La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene by Pellegrino Artusi (publihed in 1891), then you will notice that all recipes are for complete birds. Braised if a young animal, stewed if older and larger. With olives, chipolata (small sausages), oranges or onions.
One day in 1959, after a busy lunch, a sales man arrived at the Hôtel. Not much was left in the kitchen, but André Daguin wanted to serve lunch to his late guest. He took a raw magret (ready to be made into confit) and prepared it quickly, like a steak. No doubt the surprised guest loved it. A nice and unconfirmed story.
Today grilled duck breast is one of France’s most popular dishes and many chefs offer recipes for it. With an orange sauce, with a green pepper sauce or with an Asian twist.
The original (!) by André Daguin is with foie gras. Obviously!