Duck a l’Orange

I love duck.  But if I want to cook it, it definitely requires an outing.  Chinatown is really the only place I can regularly get any duck action in these parts. I never see it in my market.  (I have the same problem finding rabbit. For some reason Americans are not fond of eating animals that appear in cartoons.)

Moist and rich, a duck’s all-dark meat is the perfect base for tangy flavors, including the following classic fruity, acidic sauce. The tang and acidity balances with the fatty meat on the palette beautifully.

Unless you are a hunter, the ducks you eat are raised on farms. These birds have a stronger flavor than chicken, but not as strong as turkey.

Ducks have a lot of fat, keeping them warm in the cold lakes, and flying high above in the chilly sky. You will find a surprisingly thick layer of fat right under the skin. Remove as much excess fat as you can, then prick the skin before roasting to help render all that fat. This will also baste the meat as it cooks. Prick it periodically throughout the roasting time too. Be sure there is plenty of water at the bottom of the roasting pan, or the kitchen will get smoky.

The roasting technique employed here is my favorite: high temperature roasting. The fast, high heat crisps the skin, seals in the juice, and takes little time. I use it on nearly every size and cut of meat and poultry. You can read more about it in Barbra Kafka’s book Roasting (William Morrow, 1995).

The sauce for this dish is nothing more than a béchamel technique using orange juice, broth, and booze instead of milk. The recipe calls for Grand Marnier, which is an orange brandy. There are several others available, including Cointreau, and Triple Sec. It is also possible, and quite delicious, to omit the alcohol and use frozen concentrate of orange juice instead.


1 (4-5) lb. Duck
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 TB. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 TB. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 TB whole wheat flour
Zest and Juice of 3 oranges
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2]cup Grand Marnier
2 oranges, cut into supremes


  1. Preheat oven to 500˚F. Rinse duck, and pat dry. Place a roasting rack inside a roasting pan, and set the bird on the rack, breast facing up. Fill the pan with 1 inch of water. Prick the skin all over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast for 1 hour at 500˚F.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add onion, carrot, thyme and bay, and cook until golden brown. Add flour and cook, stirring, until oil is absorbed (This makes a roux). Stir in orange juice and zest. Slowly add broth and wine, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add honey, vinegar, and Grand Marnier, simmer 5 more minutes, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. When the bird has cooked for one hour, remove it from the oven and let it rest, covered in foil, for 10 minutes. (Internal temperature should be at least 165˚F.) Using tongs, transfer the bird to a cutting board. Carve into serving pieces, arrange on platter, and strain sauce over the top. Garnish with orange segments.


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