French trip – La première partie – Duck à l’Orange.

There are few advantages to getting into the second half of the game of life. One is that the children are now adults. Despite their constant infantile behaviour their willingness to let us go on holidays without them matches up with our willingness to leave them behind. This year, we drove to the south of France on our first child free summer holiday in over 20 years.

This meant that (also for the first time in more than two decades) we could concentrate on enjoying the food, the sunshine, the change of pace and the wine. I got to do some cooking with some incredible fresh ingredients and to do some photography. The Wife got to relax and enjoy the fruits of my labour. For this the première partie (‘first part’ for ye monolingual) I am doing my version of the French classic Duck à l’Orange. This bears no resemblance to any recipe I have ever seen but it worked really well.

Despite the lack of stress and time pressure that usually accompanies my cooking, my ingredients shot contains only most of everything needed for this dish. I am beginning to believe that I have a mental block that causes this. This time I am missing the sugar. Thankfully, I am not missing the wine but more of that below.

You will need:

  • A big duck breast (or two)
  • A juicy orange
  • A tablespoon of sugar
  • Some small potatoes
  • Some green beans
  • Salt and pepper

You will not need any cooking oil or butter. You will need patience to render the fat slowly from the duck. First things first, Slash the skin and fat on the duck as in the picture. Don’t cut into the meat. This will allow the fat out without drying out the meat.

Warm a pan over a very low heat. Place the duck breast skin side down on the pan. The next thing to do is open the wine. Pour yourself a glass. You can enjoy this over the next half hour to 40 minutes, while the fat renders from the duck breast on the pan. This is a process that you should not try to rush. Turn the oven on and heat it to 180 C. Wash and trim the beans so you are ready. Don’t leave everything to the last-minute.

Take your time, enjoy the wine. This bit can not be rushed.

While you are swilling the wine, wash the orange and peel off the zest. Squeeze the juice into a pot and add the zest and a tablespoon of sugar. Heat it and start to reduce it down slowly. Taste as you go. Add more juice or more sugar depending on your preference and consistency. Swill some more wine and wash and parboil the potatoes. When they are ready, cut them in half or thirds.

I only had a peeler to do my zesting so the pieces are pretty big in the pot. It made them easier to fish out too.

As the oil seeps out (yes, it should seep) from the breast, pour it off into a container. Don’t turn the breast until you are sure you have got pretty well all the fat rendered and poured off. This has the added benefit of crisping up the skin. When you are done, the duck should look like this:

After 40 minutes of very slow, low heat. – Well worth the wait.

Turn it, season it and brown it a little on the other side. You don’t need a picture but I have one so here you go:

It’s starting to look tasty…

Stick it in the oven for ten minutes. While the duck is in the oven, pour the rendered duck fat into the pan and fry the potatoes. They will look like this while frying:Remove the duck from the oven. Let it rest for 10 more minutes then carve it into nice thin slices. Serve it with the potatoes and beans. You remembered to cook the beans while you were swilling all that wine, didn’t you?

A pouring shot. Remember that I am holding the hot pot, focussing the camera and shooting all at once. I am a production team of one.

Did I mention the wine? We downed a bottle of Chateau Lastour 2007 with the duck. The vineyard is a short drive from where we were staying so it made sense. I waffled about it in a previous post here. We drove over and had a look at the vines…

…and the wines. They allowed us in to soak up the atmosphere, if not the wine, in the Cave. 

The Wife loved it. I loved it. This was a success not because of my incredible chefing skills but because of the fantastic fresh, local ingredients. A theme to which I will return. More from our French sojourn in the deuxième partie to follow. I’ll duck out for now.

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Latest comments
  • That looks good – I think i could eat the whole duck breast!

    • They were BIG breasts (if that is not rude) and we had a cheese course after, followed by apple tart.

  • You’ve made me hungry now … Delicious pictures!

    • Thanks Sanjiv. I have been working hard on the pics. The light in the south of France makes a big difference.

  • Very interesting post! I’ve always rendered the fat high & fast rather than low & slow, to prevent overcooking the meat as well as to get it crispy (pouring off the fat had not occured to me). Patience is also not my strongest point…

    I normally drink red wine with duck, but sweet a sweet à l’orange I prefer gewurztraminer vendanges tardives 🙂

    Agree of course on using high quality fresh ingredients. Great pouring shot!

    • Sweet a sweet = with a sweet

    • Thanks Stefan. I like your wine thoughts. However, I had the red….

  • Beautiful duck, beautiful potatoes. Enjoy yourself!

  • I love good duck breasts like that. I can’t believe I have only been able to buy them once(!) in the last several years here:(

  • Looks amazing as usual. I haven’t wanted to drink wine in a while, but after reading this post, I am both hungry and wanting some wine. 🙂 Hope you are enjoying your vacation!

    • Sadly, it is a fast dimming memory. Back behind the desk. I have drafted a few posts and will eek them out over the next few weeks in an effort to lengthen the holiday feeling.

      • Bummer! Glad you got to have that time off and the wonderful memories. Can’t wait to read all your posts about your trip. 🙂

  • I love this recipe! It will be a definite one for the to try list, if I can convince my husband to eat duck! Hmmm…maybe I will not tell him what I am making! Love the swilling of the wine in the recipe too! I don’t do that often enough!

  • Hi Connor, gorgeous looking fish there and I have to say Duck a La’ronge is an all time favourite here. Beautiful 🙂

  • You, my friend, do not do ANYTHING half-ass, do you? Wow, absolutely humbling 🙂

    • I hope the sauce impressed you, oh Hoss of Sauce, Two ingredients!

      • Simple is often the best approach 🙂 And those potatoes look sublime. Damn, I’m hungry

        • They are excellent in the duck fat. Not that I would eat them every day or I would be as big as a house.

  • That vine shot is pretty stupendous. My favourite dish to create with wine is risotto because a) it takes ages and you can sup away and b) if anyone complains about ‘too much drinking not enough cooking’ you can point out that the wine is an integral part of the cooking process so what are you supposed to do?

    • Have another glass. It dulls the feelings of guilt.

  • Couldn’t agree more about the wine, definitely use the duck fat for the roast spuds (you could put a twig of fresh rosemary in near the end to flavour the fat) and leave the sauce or glaze at the very end. It all adds up to making Duck à l’Orange very much a – sorry – “game of two halves”.

    • I like the rosemary idea. The whole thing was very tasty indeed.

  • Oh MY GOD! This is absolutely incredible, love that dish, that place and everything around, perfect.

    By the way, Here in Georgia we put fennel on roasted new potato and its very good, also in the season of new potato, there we have wild plum (green) making sour sauce from it with some herbs (including fennel of course) and hot spices. Both are very delicious 🙂

    • That sounds delicious. I love the idea of the plums. I often roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic or thyme and garlic. You know I love garlic.

      • I roast potatoes with various spices (rosemary, thyme, paprika), but I never tried with garlic .. . sounds interesting 🙂

  • What I love about childless trips is…. when the answer to the question “Where are we walking to?” is “no where” – and we smile.
    I love duck. and I love it with fruit. I’ve got a recipe with a kumquat marmalade you might like.

    • We had very disappointing duck this evening. I slightly overlooked it but it tasted like newspaper. Duck is best with something fruity. Plums will be in season here soon. Sadly, I don’t know where I would get a kumquat.

  • Great post! Great pictures! “La Baleine” salt was on every table when I grew up, but since I have been working with the “Paludiers”, I am a Guérande Salt man ever since 😉

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