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.
It does bring back memories…. A local wineshop with a banner across the street Le Beaujolais Nouveau Est Arrivé. It must have been the 1980’s. The young wine was immensely popular, and so Beaujolais and Primeur became one and the same. Which is of course a pity, because Beaujolais is so much more than a glass of Primeur. Just think about a balanced, fresh, elegant Fleurie or an intense yet delicate Moulin à Vent.
Beaujolais Primeur or Nouveau is made from the Gamay grape, using a technique called macération carbonique. The result is a fruity, light red wine, with little or no tannins. One that can’t be stored for too long. It was (and is) a very popular wine in many a French Bistro, served and enjoyed with lunch.
Over the years we became used to the idea of drinking the first French wine of the year and we started to pay more attention to the quality, only to notice that actually most of the primeur wines were thin, with a bit of acidity but without depth or length.
Today we will open a bottle of Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Beaujolais L’Ancien Primeur 2021. Jean-Paul Brun is a serious and excellent producer of beautiful, tasty Beaujolais wines. We’re sure this primeur will be pure pleasure and a true indication of the quality of the Beaujolais wines this year.
Both Salade Landaise and Salade Périgourdine combine cold ingredients (salad, tomatoes, green beans) and warm ingredients (lardons, confit of duck gizzards) with a dressing made of oil, mustard and (red wine) vinegar. Serve the salad with excellent bread and a glass of rosé and you will have a perfect lunch. Our salad is perhaps a bit too subtle for a hearty lunch, but it does work very well as an additional starter.
Combining wine and salad is never obvious. In this case we need to consider the raspberry flavour, the umami from the cèpes and the duck plus the acidity of the dressing. We choose Domaine de Rimauresq Côtes de Provence Cru Classé rosé. A classic wine from the French Provence with grapes such as grenache noir, mourvèdre, ugniblanc and rolle. The wine comes with delicate fruity, fresh flavours and aromas. It is very well balanced, dry and mouth filling and it combines beautifully with all aspects of the salad. In general you’re looking for a rosé that has complexity and length, without being overpowering.
An hour before serving, transfer the slices of smoked duck breast from the refrigerator to a plate. The duck must be at room temperature. Clean the mushrooms and slice. Heat a large iron skillet and add olive oil. Fry the mushrooms and when coloured reduce the heat somewhat. In parallel make a dressing by combining excellent olive oil, white wine vinegar and raspberry vinegar. Taste and adjust. Perhaps some black pepper. Add the salad and toss. Add some of the smaller bits of mushroom and toss again. Quickly serve the salad, adding 2 or 3 slices of smoked duck per person plus the fried cèpes.
Many years ago, we had the pleasure of being regular guests at the Auberge des Seigneurs in Vence, France. In those days the restaurant offered a wide range of beautiful dishes from the days of King François I, such as blue trout, roasted chicken, quail withPruneaux d’Agen and tender lamb cooked on a spit before an open fire in the dining room. Ah, Madame Rodi, we treasure these evenings, the beautiful food, the local wine, your dog (known to regular guests as monsieur Tim) and your infinite hospitality. We also remember your wonderful Coca Cola Light, which you would serve after dinner. It came in a huge Biot bottle and to the surprise, astonishment, shock of most of your new guests it was everything but light. It was a strong grappa with Boutons de Fleur d’Oranger (orange blossom buds). We can still see the broad smile on your face when yet another guest would take too big a sip of your powerful concoction.
Adding fruit can be a disastrous idea (just think about strawberry tea or sole Picasso) but the touch of acidity of raspberries makes them ideal to combine with vinegar. We follow Madame Rodi’s approach when making raspberry vinegar: simply combine the two and enjoy.
Use the raspberry vinegar wisely, for instance combine it with strong flavours, preferably umami. We use it in our favourite autumn salad with Porcini and Smoked Duck. The colour, the aromas, the taste: the vinegar and the raspberries integrate perfectly.
What You Need
250 grams of Excellent Organic Raspberries
250 ml White Vinegar
What You Do
Clean the raspberries, crush them with a fork and combine with the vinegar. Put in a jar and transfer to the refrigerator for one week, making sure to stir at least once a day. Pass the mixture through a sieve, applying light pressure only. Pass the vinegar through a white cloth, squeeze very gentle. The result is probably a bit cloudy, so leave for a few days before using.
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.
In his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine, author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima includes a recipe for breast of duck, marinated in a soy-based sauce, served with Belgian endive (chicory) and karashi (Japanese mustard). A mouth-watering dish. The book contains some 20 recipes that are technically challenging (at least, we think so) and well written.
In general the combination of duck and soy sauce works really well. It’s all about sweetness and umami. The Japanese mushrooms (shiitake, enoki, nameko and/or shimeji) add nuttiness and texture to the dish. We use soy sauce and tsuyu: a mix of soy sauce, mirin and dashi, ideal for making a tempura dip and great to give extra flavor to the sauce.
We enjoyed our duck with a glass of gewurztraminer (full bodied and long lasting with aromas of lychees and roses) but there are many options in this case. Perhaps a nice rosé or a sake with a touch of sweetness?
Start by cleaning the breast of duck and then fry it, straight from the fridge, for 12 minutes on the skin-side and 2 minutes on the meat-side in a non-stick pan. Wrap in foil, making sure the skin is not covered. Clean the pan with kitchen paper and fry the sliced mushrooms for 5 minutes or so in oil until ready. Set aside and keep warm. Add soy sauce, tsuyu and chicken stock to the pan and reduce. Add a splash of sake and some mirin. Add cooking liquid of the duck. Let simmer for a few minutes, add the mushrooms and make sure they are coated with the sauce. Slice the duck, add liquid to the sauce, stir and serve.
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.
Why call something pepper when actually it is not hot and spicy like black pepper or chili? Perhaps because of the shape? The Chinese name is huā jiāo, meaning something like flower pepper. Actually it is a dried berry from western China. Other names are Szechuan Pepper, Chinese Prickly Ash, Mala Pepper et cetera. The quality may vary, depending on the actual species used. The taste has two components: the aroma of citrus and an intriguing tingling effect on the tongue. The Sichuan cuisine combines it with chili pepper, star anise and ginger.
A cup of Jasmine Tea is an excellent choice. You could also go for white wine, for instance a German Riesling or Gewurztraminer. We decided to go for a Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames. 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.
What You Need
Light Soy Sauce
Normal Soy Sauce
What You Do
Start by warming a non-stick frying pan. Add the Sichuan pepper (we suggest one or two teaspoons). Gently roast the peppers until you can smell their lovely aroma. Transfer the berries to a mortar and let cool. Take the duck breast from the refrigerator, clean it if necessary and transfer to the now hot non-stick frying pan. By starting with cold meat, you will get the best result: crispy fat, a golden brown colour and seignant meat. Fry the duck breast for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat, give it 10 more minutes on the fat-side and finish with 2 or 3 minutes on the meat-side. Wrap the breast in foil, making sure the fat is not covered. Crush half of the Sichuan peppers. Add stock to the pan, soy sauce, crushed Sichuan pepper and a teaspoon of mirin. Stir and add liquid from the duck. The duck must rest for 10 minutes, so occasionally add liquid and stir the sauce. Taste the sauce and adjust. When ready, make the sauce thicker using corn starch. Coarsely crush the remaining Sichuan pepper. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Sichuan pepper on top of the meat.
We served the duck breast with a combination of stir fried (Chinese, napa or oxheart) cabbage, spring onion, chili pepper and sesame oil.