A flavourful combination of roasted duck breasts, zesty oranges and the classic sauce Bigarade, all in one dish. Duck breast a l’orange is the perfect family meal at Christmas time. For a simple yet elegant festive meal, this recipe is a must try.
Canard a l’orange is an old school French recipe, that can seem quite intimidating. Now don’t go away already as we will show you just how easy it is to prepare this simple yet elegant dish.
How to make Duck a l’orange?
Duck a l’orange is a classic French recipe featuring a well done whole roasted duck served with an aromatic sweet-sour sauce called Sauce bigarade.
For our recipe, we will be using just the duck breasts as cooking a whole duck can lead to the breasts drying out. We want our duck breasts to be pink and juicy on the inside whilst the skin to be crispy on the outside. This is much easier to achieve by using individual duck breasts as with a whole duck the legs will need longer to cook which will end up drying out the duck breasts.
How to pan-fry a duck breast?
Pan-frying is a fantastic way to cook duck breasts. The skin gets deliciously crispy on the outside keeping the duck breast pink and juicy in the middle.
Let’s start by scoring the duck breasts as this helps to render the fat from the skin. Just be careful not to score into the flesh too deeply.
Place the breast skin side down in a hot pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side.
Finish cooking with butter and thyme.
As a tip: To check the doneness of the duck breasts, press it with your fingers. It should feel firm but still springy to the touch.
How I have used Orange in the dish?
Whilst it is true that the sauce is what puts the orange in the dish, I have incorporated the orange flavour in various ways into the duck as well.
Blanched Orange Zest (This will be used for the Sauce Bigarade)
- To julienne the orange zest/peel, peel the skin from the orange
- Remove the pith from the peel (spongy white stuff between the fruit and the peel) with a sharp knife.
- Cut the orange zest/ peel in fine stripes (julienne) as shown in the picture below.
- Add the julienne to a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, then strain and keep aside.
Orange Segments (used on top of the duck breasts)
- Place orange segments on top of the duck breasts while butter basting the duck. See picture below.
- For orange segments, cut between pockets of the peeled orange and then slice out each segment as shown in the picture below.
Orange Juice (used in the sauce)
- Juice the remainder of the orange to add into the sauce.
How to make Sauce Bigarade
The sauce for the duck breast a l’orange is very important as it gives the duck all its flavor.
Bigarade is the French name of bitter oranges used to make the sauce, also sometimes called seville oranges. But If you are unable to get these bitter oranges like us, then substitute with Navel oranges and lemons.
Next important ingredient is the jus. At the restaurant I worked, we used to make duck jus from scratch and then the final bigarade sauce. However, in this recipe we use a good quality pre-prepared chicken jus as a base, which is available in any gourmet store or butchery.
To prepare the sauce, you need sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice and Grand Marnier.
We start with making a caramel with the sugar and water. When it turns into a light brown color, Deglaze with the Grand Marnier.
Add the lemon and orange juice right after. Simmer for two minutes on medium heat. Now add the chicken jus and reduce for 15 minutes.
The sauce should coat the back of a spoon, a way to see if the sauce is thick enough.
Finish the sauce by adding the blanched orange zests.
How to serve Duck a l’orange
Duck breast a l’orange can be served as a family meal any day of the week but on a special occasion like Christmas it can easily be made into a restaurant quality meal. Add some sides and condiments, plate the dish up nicely and your family will surely be impressed!
Here is another plating idea that will make this home cooked meal look as good as a fine dining restaurant meal. Slice the duck breast in half and garnish with broccolini, Brussel sprouts and onion puree. Add the bigarade sauce and there you have a restaurant style Duck a l’orange.
What to serve with Duck a l’orange?
Duck a l’orange is a hearty meal and best eaten with rich sides and garnishes. Traditionally eaten in colder months, it naturally goes well with winter vegetables.
Here are some ideas:
- oven roasted baby carrots with chimichurri
- brussel sptout slaw salad with raisins
- roasted pumpkin with miso and dukkah
Looking for other Christmas Recipes? Try our Beet Cured Salmon Gravlax with Mustard Dill Sauce.
Happy cooking and Happy eating!
Classic Duck Breast a l’Orange Recipe
For the Duck
- 4 duck breasts
- 2 oranges
- 3 sprig thyme
- 2 tbsp butter
- salt, pepper, olive oil
For the Sauce
- 300 g chicken jus or demi glace
- 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 25 ml grand marnier
For the Duck
- Score the skin of the duck breast and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat up a pan and add a drizzle of olive oil. Place the duck breasts with the skin side down in the pan.
- Cook the duck breasts for 5 minutes and turn around.
- Lower the heat and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the thyme sprig and butter and keep spooning the foaming butter over the duck skin for another 2 minutes.
- Remove the ducks from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Serve whole or cut in half.
For the Sauce Bigarade
- Using a peeler, peel the oranges. Try to keep the peels as thin as possible. With a sharp knife remove the pith (the white part) and cut into julienne (thin stripes).
- Place the orange julienne in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to a boil and strain. Cool down the orange julienne under cold running water.
- Peel the remaining oranges with a sharp knife and remove the orange segments.
- Cut the oranges in half and squeeze the juice. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze as well.
- In a heavy pot add the sugar and cover with a small amount of water. Boil until the sugar starts caramelising.
- Add carefully the grand manier making sure none of the hot sugar is coming on your hand.
- Add the lemon and orange juice. Bring to a boil.
- Add the chicken jus and reduce the heat to a simmer once the sauce has boiled. Cook for another 10 minutes and strain.
- Add the blanched orange julienne to the sauce.
- Slice the duck breasts in half and garnish with the orange segments. Serve the sauce bigarade on the side.