What’s for Sunday Dinner – Duck a l’Orange (also a great Valentine’s Day dinner)

I started making this dish for Cheryl when she was back in business school and the first time I made it for her was on St. Valentine’s Day.  Seriously, if you’re a home cook this is a pretty awesome dinner to make.  Classical French, not too difficult, delicious, and it’s duck, which is a nice treat.  Romantic, no?  The most difficult part (at least in my opinion) is the sauce and it’s not really that difficult.  It’s more about the timing and having it ready for the duck.  The sauce has a fair amount of components to it which take some time to assemble, meaning this is not quick weeknight dinner.  However, it’s perfect for a Sunday dinner, or Valentine’s Day for all you hopeless romantics. 

Duck.  Who doesn’t love it?  I’m always keeping my eyes open for it in the supermarket.  I can usually find some frozen ducks but every so often our grocery store will have fresh ones sitting next to the chicken.  Last week was one of those times, so I grabbed one knowing exactly what I was going to do with it.  Duck a l’Orange.

Duck a l’Orange is a classic French recipe so of course the important part will be the sauce.  (Side Roam: Ever notice that?  More often than not in French cuisine it’s all about the sauce.  In Italy it’s all about the pasta, in Spain it’s the simplicity of ingredients.  Not that you can’t find simple stuff in France and complex food in Italy and Spain, but the French are the sauce masters.  On this there is no argument.)  Orange sauce is basically a gastrique (a what now? getting fancy here!), a vinegar and sugar reduction which can be flavored with stock, juice, fruit, etc.  Think sweet and sour sauce (ahem, sugar/vinegar).  And who has a great orange sauce recipe?  Mr. Anthony Bourdain.  His calls for an orange zest confit which is simple to prepare and you can make it ahead.  The rest of it is simmer, simmer, simmer, and reduce, reduce , reduce, resulting in one delicious sauce.

One side benefit I love getting from roasting is the duck fat.  It just collects in the roasting pan and I pour it out into a container and pop it in the freezer.  Duck fat is great for cooking potatoes.  Just scoop out a tablespoon (or two) and drop it in the pan.

Seriously though, St. Valentine’s Day is coming up and if you’re going to make a fancy dinner for your Valentine you can’t do much better than this.  You’ve got a couple days, go get a duck and make this.

Orange Zest Confit (from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook)

  • 2 oranges
  • 1 C water
  • ½ C sugar

Make this the day before.  It doesn’t take long but it’s one less thing to do.  The easiest trick I’ve found to remove the skin from an orange without the white pith part is to use a carrot/potato peeler.  Works like a charm if you don’t have a zester or are forced to use a paring knife to cut strips.  Once you’ve effectively skinned the oranges, slice the pieces into thin strips.

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the julienned orange skin, reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to reduce by half.  Cool completely.  Strain pieces from the liquid and store in an airtight container.

Roast Duck

  • 1 duck
  • ½ orange (slices)
  • 1 lemon (slices)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 oranges segmented for garnish (and yes, I forgot to put these in for the photo)

Pre-heat the oven to 250°F.  Season the duck with salt and pepper and stuff the empty cavity with the slices of ½ orange and lemon.  Truss the duck with some kitchen string.  Place the duck on a roasting pan and roast for 25 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool.

Increase oven temperature to 350°F and cook duck for 1 hour 15 minutes, until the skin is crispy and brown.  It could take a little longer.  Just keep going until the skin gets brown.  For my 5+ lb duck it took about 20 more mins.

Note: Start making the sauce now, the base of it has to simmer for 45 mins.  You want the first step done by the time the duck comes out of the oven.  When 45 mins. has expired just take it off the heat and wait for the duck.

Allow duck to rest sufficiently before carving.  See?  I told you roasting the duck is the easy part!

For serving I like to carve the duck first and arrange the pieces on a platter with the segmented oranges and pour some orange sauce over.

Orange sauce (adapted from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook)

  • ½ C red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C sugar
  • 2 C duck stock/dark chicken stock (Got any demi-glace? Add 4 Tbs to 2 C water for some killer stock.  Do it.)
  • 1 ½ oz.  brandy
  • 2tbs butter
  • Orange zest confit
  • Juice of ½ an orange
  • Juice of ½ a lemon

Combine the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook down until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid looks like and has the consistency of a light caramel.  About 10 mins.  You’ll know when it’s ready for the stock.  When you stir it the liquid will stay parted like Moses parting the Red Sea.  Btw, be very careful with thisThis liquid is extremely hot.

Carefully add the stock and stir in.  Put the sauce over medium heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  When your duck is finished pour off the fat (save it if you can!) and deglaze the pan drippings with the brandy.  Add the pan drippings to the saucepan and reduce by half.

Strain out any solids (or not), then whisk in the butter, orange and lemon juice, and orange zest confit.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over duck and enjoy.



  1. Betty says:

    This recipe sounds wonderful….already got the duck!! Can’t wait to try it. What would you suggest serving with it for a complete meal? (starch, veggies, etc.)

    1. Excellent! Farro or maybe wild rice, with some green veg like beans, kale or other greens.

  2. Betty says:

    So the duck was a total hit, so moist and tasty!! Will definitely use this recipe again and again!! For sides, I had broccoli and mashed potato and parsnip together with a little butter and cream…was super delicious, especially when you sopped up the lovely orange sauce 😉 Can’t say enough about how awesome this recipe is…thank you so much!!!

    1. Thank you and you’re welcome! Glad to hear it was a hit! The potato and parsnip mash sounds delicious.

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