Update 16, Part 4: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

Chris was away on a business trip this weekend, so it was just me, the cats, and two 5lb ducks. The cats and I are lounging around -- the ducks have been roasted and/or braised and are swimming quietly in the fridge in some lovely orange sauce. (We are all awaiting his return.)

My first duck Demonstration was Canard Rôti à l'Orange (Duck with Orange Sauce). I prepared the duck -- salt and pepper in the cavity, removed the wishbone and wings at the 2nd joint, and trussed for roasting. I rubbed with a bit of vegetable oil and salt and pepper and put in a 500 degree oven for 20 mins, then lowered to 400 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes, basting the duck with the pan drippings every 10 mins or so.

While the duck was roasting, I chopped up all of the trimmings and giblets (except for the liver-which I believe adds a strong flavor/odor and color to the stock, so shouldn't be used) and put in a pan on the stove with a bit of vegetable oil. I sautéed them until nicely browned and then added my mirepoix of carrots and onions for another 5 minutes. Then, I poured off the excess fat from the pan (into a container -- not down the drain!) and added about 2 cups of stock to the pan and simmered for 15 mins. I poured it through my chinois and then skimmed off any fat that was floating on the surface. I put it in a sauce pan and brought to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until slightly reduced, skimming any fat every few minutes or so and then set aside.

Then, I zested an orange (the book suggests running the orange under very hot water and patting dry before zesting -- seemed to work well) and added it to a small pot of boiling water for about 4 minutes until blanched. I removed the zest with a slotted spoon and put on paper towels to drain (the orange zested water smelled a lot like orange tea--very cozy!) Once the zest was well drained, I added to 1 TBS of orange liquer and set aside.

I tried my hand at the technique called peler à vif -- and removed the white pith from it and cut into sections, called "suprêmes." I thought this would be trickier, but I guess I had a good knife, as was pretty easy considering my first time. I then took another orange and juiced it, and added it to any juice I had caught in a bowl while removing the pith.

Then, I made a gastrique by putting 1/4 cup of sugar in a small pan over medium heat and letting it start to carmelize (don't stir). I then stirred in 1/2 cup of white vinegar and cooked about 5-6 minutes, until syrupy. To stop from cooking, I added a ice cube, but then fished it back out once the temperature dropped.

By now, my duck was looking nicely roasted and smelled great -- there is a lot of fat in a duck and there was no shortage of basting liquid. I gave it about five extra minutes, checked that it was 180 degrees in the fattest part of thigh and set on a pan to rest.

While it was resting, I added the reinforced stock I had made earlier, along with the orange zest, the orange liquer, and the orange juice. I added the gastrique a bit at a time, until I had a sweet/sour sauce. I then heated it all together in a pan for about 3 mins, and added a bit of salt to taste, and then swirled in some butter (monter au beurre) right before serving. The duck came with a packet of its own orange sauce -- I opened it and heated it up just for kicks. It was orange like Duck Sauce you get at Chinese food restaurants and tasted heavily of cloves and was very sweet. Not terrible, but then I had a spoonful of my sauce and there was no comparision. Mine was richer and darker, and you could taste the meaty stock and tang of the oranges and the vinegar, but it wasn't overly sweet like the neon orange stuff in front of me.


I carved up the duck -- and put a piece of leg meat on the plate surrounded by breast meat I had cut into long slices called aiguillettes. I added the sauce and garnished with my orange suprêmes and some watercress. The duck was buttery and salty and the sauce was sweet and tangy -- definitely a nice combination. Go duck!

I was a bit annoyed at my second Demonstration: Suprêmes de Caneton Sautée et Cuisse Braisée à l'Orange (Breast of Duckling with Braised Leg, Orange Sauce) -- because it was practically the same thing I just made. Isn't there something else I can serve duck with besides Orange Sauce? Oh well.

So, this one started with me removing the wishbone and wings from the duck and quartering it like I did with the chicken last weekend. I removed the breast from the rib cage, to create suprêmes (nope, not oranges this time -- this time it means "boneless breasts"). I set those aside and then used my new meat cleaver to chop up the carcass and the trimmings/giblets (except the liver) into small pieces. Julia Child was right -- it is great fun to "whack the hell out of a chicken" or in this case, duck.  I added those to an ovenproof pan with some vegetable oil and sauteed until brown and then added the carrots and onions just like the previous dish. While the mirepoix was browning, I put a second pan on the stove with some oil and added the duck legs, searing them and turning until all sides were nicely browned. Those went on top of the browned duck pieces/mirepoix along with about 2 cups of stock and a bouquet garni and some salt/pepper. I then covered all of this with some parchment paper cut to the exact size of the pan and then on went the lid. This went in a 325 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender.

While that was happening, I scored the breast skin and the fat under it in a crisscross pattern and set aside.

Then, I made the Orange Sauce (again) -- but worked kind of in reverse as I needed the liquid from the pan that was in the oven. I zested the orange (but put 1/4 of it into the pan in the oven), blanched the zest, drained it and added to the liquer. I removed the pith from the orange (peler à vif) and cut it into suprêmes. I juiced another orange, made the gastrique and waited for the duck in the oven to be done.

When it was, I moved the duck legs to a plate and separated the thighs from the drumsticks and removed the thigh bones from the thighs and set aside. I put the liquid through a chinois and then put in a pot and brought to a simmer, for about 20 mins, skimming off any fat. I stirred in the orange zest and liquer, the orange juice and then added the gastrique a bit at a time -- and finished making the same sauce as above. It was really great this way too -- a bit smokier perhaps, but tasted just about the same as my previous attempt.

I then salted and peppered the breast and put it in a pan over medium high heat, skin side down. I lowered the heat and let it cook slowly for about 15 minutes until the skin crisped up and the fat came out (there was a lot!). Then, I turned the breast over and increased the heat and seared the breast for a few minutes, until it was cooked medium (just the way I like it!)

The steps after this were the same -- serve on a plate with a piece of leg meat, nap with sauce, add oranges and watercress (see photo #6 above).

Done and done.

Duck a l'Orange and another hike on Foodista