Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

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It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kit's Duck a l’Orange

On Valentine’s Day I thought I’d try to demonstrate that I love my wife in ways other than falling on her like a cupboard with the key stuck in the lock (I’m stealing her material here). And what better way to show someone how much you care than walking off the pathway of everyday dishes and treading unchartered territory in the kitchen to knock their socks off?

I decided to make duck a l’orange. It was about the fanciest thing I could think of, short of lobster with champagne and butter, or Bombe Alaska, and something I hadn’t tried (not that I’ve made the others, yet, either).

First up, why duck a l’orange? Why not “canard a l’orange”? Or orange infused roast duck? Je ne sais pas, but I will stick with tradition.

The first challenge? Buying a duck. Duck is considered a bit of a luxury bird to roast, predominantly because it’s so fatty – they are waterproof and do float – but also because of the small amount of meat on the animal. Ducks have heavy frames, and most of the meat is in the breast and the legs, so one bird is only enough for two.

Luv a Duck has been very active in Melbourne in supplying pre-cooked portions to supermarkets that all you do is heat and eat. But that’s like serving a premade lasagna, don’t you think? And when you’re trying to do something really nice, I mean, come on!

Many supermarkets only stock whole ducks around Christmas time in Melbourne, and if you do find one, it will be hoar frosted to the bottom of the deep freeze, will take a week to thaw, be shy of the weight you require (aim for a 2kg bird or higher if possible) and cost a LOT.

I went to a Vietnamese Victoria St butcher for mine. The shops there run rings around domestic “white” butchers or major supermarkets if you need to source ingredients for French cooking. They’ve got nearly everything you need: pork from female sows with thick cut ribs, hard pork back fat for your terrines, livers for your pate and fresh ducks with the heads on at 2 kgs… for only $15!

The lady offered to cut the head off mine, but I wanted it to put in the mirepoix (the chopped up veggies under the roast) to enhance the sauce, along with the wing tips. She smiled knowingly and gave me a nod when I said “no thanks”, like I really knew how to do Peking Duck or something.

I may have mentioned the nightmarish feeling of cutting out the backbones of chickens and likening it to making an outfit for Silence of the Lambs (see Surfin’ Bird). Try cutting off a duck head that’s smiling at you! It felt like attacking Mr Curly with a machete and a bottle of industrial solvent while wearing a Slip Knot mask. I consoled myself with the thought that the duck had gone to the great pond in the sky and promised to use every part of it and put its corporeal remains in a good home: i.e. Jane and me!

Enter Stephanie Alexander and her Cook’s Companion (1st Edition). I like Stephanie Alexander and this book – which I’ve used for years and was given to us on our wedding day by Jane’s nanna, named “Nanna” (it says so on the signed title page) – but, as usual, big question marks remain around the issue of her roasting times. I can only assume that she either had a fan forced oven OR a very tardy timepiece when she was writing this book. She always underdoes things, and suggested in the recipe that you could roast a potato in half an hour, and that all the veg would take the same length of time. Wrong! So, abley supported by Steph and using a few tweaks of my own, here is:

Kit’s Duck a l’Orange
Serves Two

One duck
A couple of thick slices of orange

Roasting vegetables
6 small carrots (peeled)
6 new potatoes (peeled)
6 small turnips (peeled)
(i.e. a bit more than enough for two)

1 stick of celery
1 carrot
1 onion
Fresh thyme (cruel thyme!)
Bay leaf
3 cloves of knife side smashed garlic
A few black peppercorns (Stephanie’s signature ingredient, and I’m sure for her a bit like a magic stick in a mud pudding)

Duck head and neck
Duck wing tips
Half a cup of white wine (dry or sweet to taste)

1 cup of strong stock (chicken)
Orange zest and juice

Preheat your oven to 220°. Cut the head and neck off the duck and drop in the bottom of your roasting pan with duck wing tips and chopped up mirapoix ingredients (5mm cubes / diced), wine and thyme. Write an apology letter to Leunig and dry your tears.

Pat the duck dry with paper towel inside and out, pricking the fat around the neck (hole) and legs with a fork. Insert orange slices into the cavity with some of the thyme. Season the bird liberally with salt and pepper (“as uszh”).

Put your dressed duck on top of mirapoix on its side and surround with potatoes. Roast for 25 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, skim fat off the juices in the bottom of the pan (you can save this and freeze for another day, to do duck fat potatoes! – this step is necessary though, since the whole thing’s so very fatty), baste and turn the duck onto its other side. Add turnips. Roast for another 25 minutes.

Again, skim the fat off the juices in the pan, baste and add small peeled carrots. Return to the oven with the duck breast up for the last stage, reduce heat to 200° and roast for a further 40 minutes.

Remove duck and roasting vegetables, cover loosely with crumpled aluminium foil and allow to rest. If the roasting veg need longer, put them in the oven on a separate tray. Meanwhile make your sauce, the piece de la resistance.

Skim the fat off the juices in the bottom of your original roasting pan, add the stock and put the pan on stove top on a high-ish heat. Add the grated zest and juice of one orange and stir as the jus reduces. Push the lot through a strainer into a small saucepan.

Glaze the duck with a little of the sauce after it has rested for fifteen minutes and return to the oven (with veg) to crisp up the skin for ten minutes.

Carving can be an issue, since ducks don’t have the same topography as chickens. Just remember that all the meat is on the breast and legs and you’ll have done a good job. I used the Chinese technique of a meat clever, dissecting the bird into four.

Serve with a green salad to make you think you’re eating a balanced diet, with the sauce on the side, a slice of orange on the duck, and a bottle of Merlot.

Bon apetite!

p.s. Don’t throw out the carcass, head or wing tips after cooking and serving. Save these in the freezer (with your container of duck fat for chips). We’ll revisit them in a few weeks for duck soup, using chestnuts and lentils!
p.p.s Keep the Mylanta handy!


David said...

why isnt Jane Birkin on your list (although she is Brit-French??)
sorry but i am voting for her as I have followed her all over france...! you could add her and say it was by popular demand...

Anonymous said...

It's ace Kit. I love it! It's very interesting and well written. It makes me really hungry. Tez.

Kit Fennessy said...

Thanks Anonymous (Tez)!