Here we go again~! Another one of those Tyrian recipes that instantly make one of this side’s culinary world’s most classic dishes pop up in my head… Canard à L’Orange. Well, usually I’d jump at the chance to follow the rules for once, but I tried this one at home and at various restaurants time and time again, just to be disappointed… for some reason the Duck-Sauce-Potato’y Side-Combo never got better – not that it’s a bad dish in itself, mind you, the classic composition just turned out not to be my cup of tea after all.
The reason I kept giving it so many chances – beside the fact that there had to be a reason for it to be on the „Classics“ list… right? – is quite simple: duck and orange just go so deliciously well together~! Of course, once the Guild’s recipes brought this one to my attention, I couldn’t let it go, I just had to make it work! And, oh, did I ever! This one turned out to be one of my personal favorites.
So, here’s what set me off… I know, the almonds and the ginger don’t exactly fit the idea of Duck & Orange, but my brain stopped working properly at the Citrus Cream Sauce~
And this is what I doctored up thanks to that gentle nudge from the Chef’s Guild of Tyria… and repeat on a regular basis.
These amounts will net you 2 servings… plus some extra risotto for seconds… or lunch the next day~
2 small Duck Breasts, cleaned and trimmed
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely chopped
1 Tsp fresh Rosemary Needles, very finely chopped
12 dried Dates, finely chopped
6 Walnuts, shelled, roasted and roughly chopped
2 heaped Tbsp of Lardons, finely cubed
2 Tsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp runny Honey – to glaze the skin while the meat is resting
3 Tsp Ras el Hanout and some extra – 1 for each breast, 1 for the glaze. Clicky here for my Ras el Hanout recipe
Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper to taste
1 Sprig of Rosemary and 1 crushed Clove of Garlic for the pan
Here’s an interesting tidbit of foodology before we start: when it comes to duck breasts, the ones coming from female birds are actually the small ones.
If you’re looking for 1 piece of bird per person, roundabout 220-250g per piece, ask your butcher for female ones. Pick one of the huge, 400-500g each, male ones in case you feel like going roast-style with the duck.
1) Re-check the meat for odd and gnarly bits and, if necessary remove them and any excess fat – if you’re not sure which parts are meant to be attached to the meat, what with the nice layer of skin and all that, flip the breasts flat onto their skins and gently brush around the border right where the skin clings to the meat. Whatever folds away from the meat at a light touch is „excess“, use a very sharp knife to remove it.
2) Use the same knife to score the skin in a diamond pattern – place the diagonal cuts about 1 cm apart and make extra sure you only score the skin ittself, leaving the meat beneath undamaged. This step isn’t just a cosmetic measure, by the way, quite on the contrary. First and foremost, it will keep the skin from pulling the meat out of shape while it’s shrinking in the heat of the pan. Secondly, it enables the layer of fat beneath the skin to render off nicely, providing you with a crispy skin as well as the moisture the bottom half of the duck, unprotected by skin as it is, needs in the pan to keep from drying out and/or burning – without the need for additional oil or butter.
3) Fire up a heavy-based pan on medium heat. Add the lardons and give them around 3-4 mins to give off their juices.
4) Add the chopped dates, garlic and walnuts, olive oil and the chopped rosemary, give the contents of your pan a hearty flip and continue to sautée the lot until the bacon turns crispy. Make sure to stir regularely to keep the dates from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
5) Move the filling into a bowl and set it aside to cool down.
6) Pick up the first duck breast and gently lay it down onto your works surface, skinside down. Use a long and thin blade to cut a pocket into the meat, starting at the thick, short end – you’ll be creating a sort of tunnel right through the middle from the top almost through to the bottom. Don’t poke through the other side or the bottom/skinside. Repeat the procedure with the second breast.
7) Stuff the filling into the pocket and use a chopstick or something similar – the back end of a wooden spoon for example – to stuff it in, as densely packed as possible, all the way to the other end. Be gentle though, you don’t want to rip through the meat. If you feel some bits and pieces getting stuck, causing a traffic jam, massage the meat a bit to un-jam the filling on its way through.
Just in case this is a bit too fiddly for your taste, you could also just cut a simple pocket down the length of the thicker side of the breast before stuffing and tightly tieing it up with butcher’s yarn.
8) Generuosly dust the duck with salt and 1 tsp of Ras el Hanout for each of them on all sides.
9) The thing about dealing with a stuffed duck breast in an oven-free zone is… There’s quite a bit of effort involved to keep the meat from turning into a slab of charcoal wrapped around a raw’ish filling. So, once more there are 2 paths to yummyness for these pretties:
Option 1: MacGuyver yourself a two-step oven with a bamboo steam-basket setup and a heavy-based pan with a fitting lid~!
Step one: Place the duck, skinside up, on a sliver of baking parchment and set it into the basket. Pop the basket onto a pot of water, simmering on medium-high heat, close the lid and leave it to steam for 20 mins.
Step Two: Move the duck into the pan, skinside facing down this time. Set the pan onto high-heat and let it get to its maximum temperature. Once the pan is at its max, the skin should be sizzling away already, the fat rendering off nicely. If it doesn’t, give it a few more blinks, then have a peek. If the skin is starting to crisp up, you’re golden. Give the duck ¼ of a turn, close the lid and sear it 2 mins before giving it another ¼ of a turn, rinse, repeat – 8 mins total pan-time, ¼ turn every 2 mins, the last 2 mins on the skinside again with the lid off to finish the crisp. Ta-dah!
Option 2: If you’re using an oven, preheat it to 180°C, pop the stuffed duck in for 25 mins and finish off the crispy skin in a screaming hot pan with a dab of oil, a bashed garlic clove and a sprig of rosemary.
10) Add the honey, lemon juice and the remaining tsp of Ras el Hanout to a small bowl and whisk the lot until the honey has dissolved completely.
11) Place the duck breasts on a warm plate, brush them with the glaze, tuck them in under aluminum foil and leave them to rest for 5-7 mins.
The Blood Orange Pearl Barley Risotto (4)
2 Shallots, finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, very finely chopped
2 Blood Oranges, zest and juice
300 ml Chicken or Duck Stock – if you don’t want to make it yourself or can’t get your hands on a good duck stock, check at a butcher’s shop, they usually sell all sorts of stocks
150g Pearl Barley
1 Tsp Dry Harissa – Clicky here for my Harissa Spice Blend recipe
2 Tbsp Dry White Wine – the usual Chardonnay does the trick
Fleur de Sel
Opt: 1 Tbsp of Butter as a finishing flourish
1) Pour the stock into a small pot and get it up to a gentle simmer on medium-low heat. Make sure to keep it hot in order to maintain the temperature of the risotto while you’re adding the stock to it.
2) Set a second pot onto medium heat and add the butter to it.
3) Once the butter has dissolved, add the shallot cubes and leave them to heat through for 1 min before adding the garlic and the barley. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the lot while they’re lightly sautée’ing away – keep at it until the barley turns translucent around the edges. Keep an eye on the onions while you’re at it, they’re not supposed to take on color. This will take about 5-7 mins.
4) Deglaze the barley-onion mixture with the wine, add the harissa and keep stirring gently until the barley has soaked up the all of the liquids.
5) Time for the stock – add a ladleful and give the barley 2-3 mins and a stir or two to soak it all up.
6) Continue adding the stock in ladlefuls – always let the barley soak up everything before adding the next. Add the blood orange juice with the last round of stock.
7) While you’re doing this, keep stirring – gently, in order to avoid breaking up the pearls – these are worse than rice in the stick-and-burn department~
8) As the last batch of stock and juice are simmering away, fold in the blood orange zest.
9) Check the risotto for its consistency once it’s done soaking up the last addition of liquids. So far, I’ve encountered 3 possible problem-scenarios at this point in the process, so, here they are, and what you can do about it.
– If the barley still has too much bite for comfort despite it having obligingly soaked up all of the liquids, add some more stock or juice – have a taste to judge which you’d like to have more of – and check again after it’s gone.
– If the risotto’s leaning towards the soup’y side of things but the barley appears to be perfectly al dente, use the spoon-cheat on the pot and remove some of the excess liquid~
– If the barley’s underdone and theres a lot of liquid left, turn the heat to low and let it simmer away for 5-10 mins until it seems to be ready. Don’t forget to stir~
10) Once the risotto tickles your tastebuds in all the right places consistency-wise, stir in a tbsp of cold butter for an extra boost in creaminess if you’d like and adjust the seasoning with more harissa and salt until you’re fully satisfied.
11) Cover the pot with a lid for the time being and get ready to serve.
Assembling the Dish
1) Divide the risotto on to two plates.
2) Unwrap the duck, slice each piece in halves to show off all the results of the fuss you’ve made with the filling and arrange them on top of the risotto. If the duck breasts are long/large enough to cut them in 3 or 4 pieces, you could place them on top of the risotto with the cutting surfaces facing up for an even better view.
3) Drizzle them with the juices they’ve left behind on the plate they were resting on and get ready to serve!
4) Garnish the plates with a couple of orange or blood orange segments and an optional dot of crème fraîche, just in case the harissa developed a bit further down the spicy road than you’d like.