Duck Breast in Orange Sauce is a classic French dish and one of my family’s favorites. This is one of the dishes we learned at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris, and it consists of a seared duck breast served with a rich brown sauce – sweetened with orange juice and sugar- and accompanied with fresh orange slices.
In France, this dish is usually made with a duck breast that is called a Magret- a breast that comes from a force-fed duck raised to make foie gras. A Magret is absolutely HUGE – abut twice the size of a normal duck breast and will easily serve two people.
However, since Magrets are usually sold only in France (and a few other places), I’m using just a normal-sized duck breast that I bought at the Adelaide Central Market.
“Cook it pink!”
At the Cordon Bleu school, the chefs emphasized (i.e. ‘demanded’) that we cook the duck so the inside was pink. If we cooked it any longer than that, the pink would turn to a gray color, and the chef would dismiss our work with a wave of the hand or the dreaded words “over-cooked!” (This was sometimes enough to send us to the locker room in tears as our 2.5 hours of work just went down the drain). Personally, I prefer cooking it pink since the duck tends to become tough in texture if cooked any longer. Of course, everyone is free to cook it as they like …
Duck Breast in Orange Sauce (adapted from the Cordon Bleu school recipe)
- 3 – 4 duck breasts – bones removed
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 2 oranges – sectioned with the peel cut into thin julienne pieces
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) Cointreau or Grand Marnier
- 2 Tbsp (30 g) sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) orange juice
- 1 1/4 cup (310 ml) chicken stock
To thicken the sauce:
- 3 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot or white cornflour
- re-heat oven to 360 ° F (180 ° C).
- To prepare the orange peel garnish, cut the orange peel into rough strips, about 1/2 inch wide. Avoid including the white pith when you cut the strips, as it has a bitter taste.
- Square off the edges of each strip using a sharp knife and then slice each strip into very thin julienne. Place the julienne pieces into a shallow pan of cold water, bring to the boil and blanche for two minutes (this will soften any bitter taste remaining in the orange peel).
- Transfer the orange julienne pieces to a bowl and add the Cointreau or Grand Mariner on top of the orange peel; allow to soak.
- Now section the orange pieces: with the remaining orange pulp, slice off the very top and bottom of the orange. Using a sharp paring knife, remove each individual orange section, cutting in-between each membrane. Place the orange slices in a bowl and cover with a bit of orange juice to keep moist while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Now prepare the orange sauce: place sugar and red wine vinegar together in a saucepan and whisk over medium high heat for several minutes until the mixture turns a deep reddish-brown color. Add the orange juice and chicken stock and whisk over medium heat until the sauce reduces to about 2/3 of the orginal volume- this will take about 5 -6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- Prepare the duck breasts: trim the fat around the edges of each breast and score the top of each breast (the white fat part) using a sharp knife. Your knife should only slice through the fat and not puncture into the duck meat. Season both sides of each breast with salt and pepper.
- Cook the meat: Add a small amount of oil to a fry pan and place over a high heat. Sear the scored fat side of each duck breast first for about three minutes until golden brown and crispy. Turn the breast over and cook for about four minutes over medium heat.
- Remove each breast from the pan and make a small incision on the bottom, about an inch deep- this helps to cook the inside of the breast more easily. Now wrap each breast in foil and place in the oven for 4 – 5 minutes, until the inside is cooked until pink in color. If the inside is still red, continue cooking for another few minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let the meat rest covered in foil for 10 – 15 minute. Drain the fat from the fry pan; over medium heat, add some water or stock to the pan and use a spatula to scrape the brown ‘cooked bits’ off the bottom of the pan. Stir and then add this liquid to the Orange Sauce (continued from step # 6).
- To finish the Orange Sauce, add the Cointreau or Grand Marnier that was used to soak the orange julienne slices. Continue to whisk the sauce over medium heat until it reduces further. Combine the white cornflour and port together to make a paste and then add to the Orange Sauce to help thicken it further. The sauce should be rather thick in consistancy, but not heavy like molasses.
- To plate the dish, slice the duck breast horizontally into thin slices, pour some sauce over the top of the meat, place a little of the orange julienne slices on top of the meat and arrange a few orange slices around the side.