If you’re looking for an elegant, easy entrée for a special occasion dinner, try making our version of classic Duck a l’Orange using boneless duck breasts.
Easy Duck a l’Orange At Home
Duck a l’Orange is a classic French dish made popular by restaurants in the United States in the 1960s.
The traditional preparation involves roasting a whole duck, making a stock from the trimmings (neck, gizzard, and heart) and combining that with fresh orange and other ingredients to make the sauce.
While the authentic dish is a true culinary treat, we’ve created a simplified version to make at home with boneless duck breasts.
Regardless of whether you make the dish with whole roasted duck or boneless breasts, the secret to a successful Duck a l’Orange is the sauce.
To properly complement the richness of the duck, the orange sauce should have a perfect balance of sweet and bitter flavors. Our sauce achieves that with the simple addition of a splash of vinegar and a few dashes of cocktail bitters.
How To Cook A Duck Breast
A perfectly cooked duck breast is tender and juicy with a crispy, flavorful skin. Here are the steps you need to follow to get restaurant-quality results at home.
Step 1: Bring the duck breasts to room temperature before cooking.
Step 2: Score the skin in a crosshatch pattern being careful not to cut into the flesh beneath.
Step 3: Season the skin side liberally with salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Step 4: Place the duck breasts skin side down in a heavy pan (we like cast iron) and place it over medium heat (250 to 275°F).
Step 5: Leave the duck breasts undisturbed until the fat has rendered and the skin is crisp and golden. This step generally takes between 10 to 12 minutes, possibly longer.
Step 6: Once the skin has crisped, raise the heat slightly, turn the breasts over and cook until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 130°F for medium rare (140°F for medium).
Step 7: Allow the duck breasts to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Residual heat will continue cooking them to the perfect doneness and the juices will be redistributed throughout the breast.
Shopping For Duck Breasts
Depending on the breed, boneless duck breast halves can range in weight from 8 ounces to 1 pound each, so before you start shopping you’ll want to know a little about each type.
Pekin (or Long Island) Duck Breasts
Pekin duck breasts are the most commonly available variety in US markets. They’re easy to prepare, mild in flavor and each duck breast half weighs approximately 8 to 9 ounces.
Muscovy Duck Breasts
The Muscovy duck is known for being leaner and having thinner skin than the Pekin. Individual breast halves usually weigh about 8 ounces each.
Muscovy duck breasts cost a little more per pound than Pekin, but they render less fat during cooking, so you’re left with a higher percentage of edible meat.
Magret Duck Breasts
Magret duck breasts come from the Moulard duck, which is a cross between the Pekin and Muscovy.
They are nearly twice the size of the Pekin and Muscovy (each breast half weighs 14 to 16 ounces), but they are ever bit as tender, flavorful and easy to prepare as their smaller counterparts.
Where To Buy Duck
Boneless duck breasts are not always easy to find in local supermarkets, so you may have to check with a specialty meat market or shop online.
Our favorite source for duck is D’Artagnan, a mail order purveyor of quality meats, game and poultry located in New Jersey.
The duck products they sell come from birds that have been humanely raised on family farms without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
They sell all three of the duck breast varieties listed above as well as smoked duck breasts, whole duck, duck bacon, duck prosciutto, duck sausage and more.
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Duck Breast a l'Orange
When made with boneless duck breasts, Duck a l’Orange is an exceptionally easy, yet elegant entrée to serve for a special occasion.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- Category: Main Dishes
- Cuisine: European
- 1–3/4 to 2 lbs boneless duck breasts
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large navel orange (preferably organic)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1–1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
- 6 or 7 dashes orange bitters
- Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator 30 minutes ahead to allow them to come to room temperature.
- Being careful not to cut into the meat, score the skin on each duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern at 1/4-inch intervals. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
- Zest the orange into a small bowl, then trim away both ends. Following the curve of the orange, carefully cut away the remaining peel down to the flesh, then trim any stray bits of the white pith.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully slice along both sides of each membrane toward the center of the orange to remove the segments (these are called orange supremes). Set aside.
- Place the duck breasts, skin side down in a heavy frying pan over medium heat (about 275°F) to render the fat. You should see the fat begin to melt and hear a slight sizzle. If your duck breast is cooking harder than that, lower the heat.
- Without turning, continue cooking the duck until the majority of the fat has rendered from the breast and the skin is golden brown and crisp. This usually takes 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the duck fat renders, make the sauce.
- Whisk the cornstarch together with 1/4 cup of the chicken broth in a small bowl and set it aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until soft and fragrant, 2 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook until dissolved.
- Add the sherry vinegar, orange zest, orange juice and remaining chicken broth. Raise the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir, then add it to the saucepan and cook for 30 seconds.
- Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened to a syrupy consistency, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and add the bitters. Cover to keep warm.
- Once the duck skin is crisp, turn the breasts over, raise the heat slightly and continue cooking until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 130°F for medium-rare (or 140°F for medium), 3 to 6 minutes.
- Allow the duck breasts to rest for 8 to 10 minutes before slicing.
- To serve, arrange slices of duck and several orange supremes on each plate, then drizzle the sauce over the top.
We recommend serving Duck a l’Orange with simple side dishes like a medley of white and wild rice with toasted almonds and oven-roasted green beans.