Duck with Orange Sauce

Duck with Orange Sauce

Serves 6 to 8.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from several cookbook recipes.

Duck with Orange Sauce is an iconic, quintessentially French recipe. Both elegant in appearance and richly flavored, it is near the pinnacle of gourmet cooking. As such, this is not something you can expect to prepare when you get home from work in the evening. It is not a difficult recipe, but it takes time. Allow 2 to 3 hours.


For the Duck:
1 5-pound (2.27kg) duck
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 sprig fresh theyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 medium carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 leek (white part only), diced
About ½ cup (120ml) dry white wine
For the Orange Sauce:
1 lemon
7 oranges
3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup (79ml) red wine vinegar
2 cups (473ml) stock, preferably duck, but chicken or turkey is okay—look for the low-sodium product
2 tablespoons Cointreau


Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

Prepare the duck by removing the neck and/or any other pieces stored inside the cavity. Cut off the pieces of fat at the open end of the cavity. You can cut out the wishbone (it’s a little tricky) to facilitate carving. Rinse the duck well with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Add a sprig of thyme and 1 or 2 bay leaves. Truss the duck (see below) and then rub with butter all over (you might need to dry the skin again with paper towels). Season all over with salt and pepper.

Place the duck on its side in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. You can place the neck in the bottom of the pan. Roast 30 minutes.

While the duck is roasting, chop the vegetables. Examine the leek carefully. They are notorious for harboring a lot of mud. Rinse if necessary.

After 30 minutes remove the duck from the oven and carefully turn onto it’s other side. Arrange the chopped vegetables around the bottom of the pan and add the wine. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

During this second stage of roasting prepare the citrus fruits. Use a vegetable peeler to cut thin strips of zest from 3 or the oranges and the lemon. Try to remove only the colored skin without much of the white pith beneath it. Then cut the zest strips into thin julienne pieces. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add the zest. Cook about 5 minutes, then drain the zest and rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the 3 peeled oranges.

Finally, turn the duck breast side up and roast until done—when the thigh is pierced with a thin knife the juices should run clear, or use a digital thermometer and roast until the internal temperature checked in the thigh and breast meat registers at least 155°F (68°C). Another way to check is to tilt the duck a little, raising one end, and check the color of any juices that drip out. They should be clear, not red. This final roasting stage could take 30 to 45 minutes. When done, remove the duck from the oven and transfer to a platter. Remove the strings and tent with foil. Allow to rest 10 to 15 minutes.

During the final stage of roasting prepare the orange sauce. Combine the wine vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated, leaving a thin syrup. Remove from the heat and add the orange juice (be careful, it might boil up). Return the pan to the heat and boil to reduce the volume by half. Add the stock and continue boiling to reduce, again by about half.

When the duck comes out of the oven, strain any juices from the bottom of the roasting pan and skim off the fat. The juice can then be added to the orange sauce. Finish the sauce by adding the julienned zest and the Cointreau. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.

Cut the remaining oranges into wedges. Arrange around the duck on the platter. Transfer the orange sauce to a gravy boat and spoon a little of the sauce over the duck. Garnished with a little of the zest.

Bring the platter to the table for the benefit of your guests. Transfer the duck to a carving board and cut for plating. Serve with your favorite vegetables.