This is one of those French classical recipes that have many variations and of which the roots are not clear. Chef René Lasserre made it famous in his Paris restaurant in 1945, but the dish can have been brought to France by the cooks of Catherine de Medicis , who brought several refinements to the French court of Henry II, not least the usage of forks.
The sweet and sour taste combination, still used in Chinese cooking, was popular in the late Middle Ages as several recipe collection books can attest.
There are apparently also traces of the recipe in Seville, where bitter oranges grew after Arabs took them to there from east Asia.
The French current version uses sweet oranges and sugar as well as vinegar.
The dish is best prepared in advance for logistical considerations. The juices from the cooking of the bird are used to make the sauce, which needs some 15 minutes at least to get the required syrupy consistency.
- One duck, such as the Nantes duck.
- Two oranges, preferably non-treated
- Veal or chicken meat jelly (fond)
- Two spoons of white wine vinegar
- Two spoons of caster sugar
- A glass of Grand Marnier
- Pepper and salt
- Clean and dry the duck, add pepper and salt.
- Melt a knob of butter in a casserole and brown the duck on all sides at moderate heat. This can take up to 20 minutes to get the bird brown. During this operation the bird will give off a lot of fat and the heat should be kept in check to prevent burning.
- Meanwhile, wash the oranges and scoop zests from the skin. Put water in a small casserole, heat to boiling, add the zests and cook for 3 minutes, drain and set aside.
- Extract the juice from the oranges.
- Heat an oven to 175 °C.
- When the duck is browned, put it on an oven dish, sprinkle some of the orange zest over it and place it in the oven, cooking for 30-45 minutes depending on the size and weight of the bird. Turn regularly and test the meat towards the end.
- Meanwhile, put the vinegar and sugar in a small casserole and put it on the heat until it starts to caramelise. Add the orange juice and keep stirring.
- Take a large saucepan. Strain the cooking fat into this pan and add the orange/vinegar combination. Put on moderate heat and stir. Add the Grand Marnier and half the orange zests. Cook for at least 15 minutes to 45 minutes while stirring regularly to obtain a syrupy sauce.
- When the duck is ready, take it out of the oven and set aside for 15 minutes.
- Turn the heat in the oven down to 75 °C.
- Carve the duck, gather the juices and add the liquid to the saucepan.
- Arrange the duck pieces on a platter and put back in the oven to wait for the sauce and serving.
- (Here you can stop the cooking and resume the operation some 15-20 minutes before dinner).
- Strain the sauce, pour over the duck and sprinkle with the remaining zest stripes.
- Optional – you can present orange slices or quarters around the duck. Carefully remove the skin and pips. You can also cook them shortly in sugared water for a shiny appearance and sweet taste.