I know, I know. I’ve previously posted a recipe for Orange sauce for duck or lamb, but of late I’ve discovered a much quicker and easier way of cooking a duck breast fillet that almost makes the sauce itself. It came about because I’d finally emerged from a period of relative penury and wanted to treat myself to something special. So I had a Big Mac. Then the next night I ordered a pizza. And on the third night I decided to opt for something a tad more adult- it was either that or try to find a decent margarita in Northwest London.
So a duck breast it was, always an icon of luxury for me- and I would like to point out at this junction that a duck breast here in the UK costs roughly the same as a decent piece of steak, so it’s really not an otherwordly luxury (unless of course you find yourself as penurious as I did). A duck breast is not nearly so fearsome to cook as one might think; yes there’s the matter of all that fat to deal with, but that- as we shall see- that’s really no challenge at all. And this recipe has only three ingredients, so is hardly a store cupboard challenge either. This recipes has amounts for a meal for one, but you can double it up as necessary without increasing cooking times. Just figure on one orange per duck breast.
You will need:
- 1 duck breast fillet
- 1 large orange
- Red wine vinegar
First things first: Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 6/200c/400f, and open the window. Cut the orange in half along the equator, then cut one half in half again, and slice into the thinnest half-moons you can manage. Juice the other half of the orange and reserve the juice. Lay the orange slices in a roasting tray, season with salt and pepper, and pop the tray into the oven while it heats. Once that’s in, put a dry frying pan onto the hob and set the heat on high.
Then, using a very sharp knife, score the skin of the fillet in a diamond (diagonally one way and then diagonally the other) pattern and season with salt and pepper. Once the pan is good and hot, lay the duck breast in skin-side down, and leave to fry for about 3 minutes. Don’t bother pushing it around the pan; you don’t have to. Almost all the fat from the duck will render off during this process, and the skin will start to crisp up nicely*.
After 3 minutes, take a peek at the skin. If it’s golden brown, ramove the roasting tray from the oven. Then remove the fillet from the pan and place skin-side up on top of the orange slices in the roasting tray, and take the frying pan away from the heat. Using tongs or a fork, place a couple of the smaller orange slices on top of the fillet, return the tray to the oven, and leave to roast for 15-20 mins, depending on how rare you like your duck. Remove the duck from the roasting tray and set aside to rest.
Then place the roasting tray over a medium heat on the hob, and pour in the reserved orange juice. Wait until it starts to bubble, then add about a tablespoon of the vinegar and stir the orange slices about while the liquid in the pan bubbles merrily and reduces. It will smell alarmingly vinegar-y at first, but fear not; cooking mellows vinegar, and at any rate citrus sweetens while it cooks, so you need that tartness anyway. Let it all bubble until the sauce darkens and thickens and reduces by about half, then you can slice the fillet and add the juices to the tray for a moment.
Then all you have to do is plate up the duck and pour over the sauce. You can also serve the now-cooked orange slices alongside. They make a great sort of relish.
A duck breast should always be the star of the show, so I would just serve this to myself (or guests) with some steamed green beans or asparagus, and definitely some glazed carrots. Speaking of which:
You will need:
- 1 medium to large carrot (per person), cut in large chunks or slices- whatever your personal aesthetic prefers, but keep them large.
- brown sugar (light brown or demerara for preference, but you can use dark muscovado or in fact honey if you don’t usually have brown sugar about)
- chicken or vegetable stock concentrate or cubes( if you refuse to use either of these, a few drops of Worcestershire or soy sauce or a teaspoon of Marmite )
Boil a full kettle. Place the carrot in a saucepan and sprinkle fairly generously with the sugar- less generously if you’re using dark muscavado or honey as they have stronger flavours. Dot with a couple of thumb-sized knobs of butter and add a teaspoon of stock concentrate or about half a cube, crumbled. Once the kettle has boiled, turn on the heat under the saucepan to medium-high and as soon as you can add enough boiling water to just cover the carrots. Stir once to dissolve the sugar then once the water has come back to the boil half-cover and reduce the heat slightly. The pan should still be bubbling away; just not at a vociferous boil. The carrots should be tender in about 15-20 minutes.
As they start to feel tender when poked with a knife, remove the lid from the pan and let the liquid reduce to a slightly sticky glaze on the carrots. Take the pan off the heat when you can see more carrots than liquid. Plate the carrots with a slotted spoon. These carrots cook in pretty much exactly the same amount of time it takes for the duck to cook once in the oven, which -alongside their complimentary sweetness and orangeness- makes them the perfect accompaniement.
* My mother and her mother before her always kept a jar of congealed bacon/pork/lamb/beef fat in the fridge. I first discovered this when I mistook the jar of fat for leftover icing.