Saturday, February 9, 2013

Duck a l'Orange

I'm on a staycation.  I have a bunch of things to catch up on, and I'm cleaning out the garage.  There's a hardware store in there.  Not kidding.  Pounds of various sizes of nails, bolts, and washers.  Every switch-plate and outlet cover ever used in this house.  PVC pipe.  Copper pipe.  Galvanized steel pipe.  Redundant tools.  Decade-old paint.  The kitchen cabinets from the last remodel.  Two doors.  Grass seed for 1977.  The good news is I don't have to buy any supplies to re-varnish the kitchen table.  I'm also going to make a laundry table with a removable cover so you can use it as an ironing board.

Anyway, I now have time to do something special with the duck I bought at 99 Ranch in December.  The oranges on my struggling tree are ripe, so this seemed like an obvious choice.

While reading various recipes online and in cookbooks, I found a common theme: no one makes Duck a l'Orange the same way.  Nobody.  Not even close.  Usually, classic recipes are pretty much the same everywhere you look, except for that one special tweak that makes the recipe unique enough not to have to pay royalties to someone.

So, I have taken the best aspects of at least five of these recipes and added one of my own.  Only one of the recipes even suggested Grand Marnier as the alcohol in the sauce, or any orange-flavored liqueur for that matter.  I can't find the bottle of G.M., and I'm not about to go out and get one, so I'm using the Triple Sec with 1960's-style illustrations instead.  I did find some orange tequila, but this dish requires something richer.

I'm also taking the hard road and doing the two-day version where you butcher it into four pieces and make your own duck stock.  That was Bon Appetit's idea.  They assume you know how to do things like butcher your own meat.  I happen to know how to take apart poultry, but a beginner may want to buy their duck fresh at Whole Foods or a farmer's market where the butcher can do it for you.  The cooking-the-duck part is mostly from Saveur, but I made a bunch of changes to that from various other sources.  After all that, I guess you could almost call this my own recipe.

For the Stock
1 duck (about 5 lbs), thawed
1 carrot, halved and cut into chunks
1 small onion, cut into chunks
2 ribs celery, cut into chunks
*10 peppercorns
*1 tsp thyme
6 C water

1.  Cut off fatty skin parts around neck and tail of duck and place in a large pot.  Over medium-low heat, render fat from skin, about 10 minutes.

2.  While fat is rendering, cut off wings from duck and set aside with neck.  Discard giblets or save for another use.  Cut leg/thigh quarters off duck and set aside.  Carve breast halves from carcass and set with leg quarters.  Refrigerate until ready to cook.  Chop the carcass into several pieces.

3.  Remove skin from pot and discard.  Add carcass pieces, wings, neck, and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  This lets the bones brown and the onion develop flavor.

4.  Add remaining ingredients and stir.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Cook for at least 1 hour, and up to 2.  Refrigerate stock so fat will separate from liquid.

5.  Set a fine-mesh sieve over a pot.  Pour stock-pot contents through sieve to remove impurities.  Discard waste, leaving 4 to 5 C of duck stock.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

For Duck
2 duck leg quarters
2 duck half-breasts
2 C duck or chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
2 large oranges, like navel
*1/4 C orange liqueur, like Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1 Tb butter
2 Tb sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1.  Remove zest from one orange.  Cut it in half and juice it, about 1/2 C of orange juice.  Add zest to juice.  Set aside.  Divide other orange into segments.  Chill until ready to use.

2.  Score fatty skin of all duck pieces.  In a large skillet, cook leg quarters over medium-low heat.  Drain off fat and turn pieces every 10 minutes until thermometer reaches 125º, about 40 minutes.  (If you want, save the duck fat for another use.  I put the first couple of tablespoons in with my side of wild rice.)  Set on a rimmed baking sheet and start preheating oven to 250º.  Place breast pieces skin-side down in skillet and cook for 10 minutes (this can overlap the last turn of the legs).  Drain fat, turn meat-side down, and cook for 1 more minute.  Place breasts skin-side down on the baking sheet and put in oven.

3.  Drain the pan again and add the duck stock.  Turn heat up to high so it boils and begins to reduce.  Once it has reduced by half, add orange juice, sugar, salt, and liqueur.  Once it has reduced again to about under a cup, taste and adjust sugar or salt as needed.  Stir in butter until melted and sauce is syrupy.

4.  Check temperature on thighs.  They should be at least 155º, preferably 165º.  Place the thighs on a deep serving platter.  Slice breast pieces and arrange with legs.  Scatter orange segments around platter.  Pour sauce over duck and serve.

Serves 2-3

Difficulty rating:
  • making your own duck stock $@%!
  • using chicken broth :-0
  • using chicken broth and having someone else butcher the duck for you :)

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