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.
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.
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:
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:
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?
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…
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.