So imagine this scene if you please: Me blithely walking down the supermarket aisle. Humming along to some happy internal tune. Ok not really, but in an ideal 1950’s world I would alright. With perfect hair and clip on earrings, a nipped in waist and a below-the-knee skirt. Actually in an ideal noughties world I would be cycling down the aisles a la Duffy in the Pepsi ad grabbing stuff that I would only need and paying at the checkout counter with one of those newfangled contactless credit cards. But I do really blithely walk down aisles sometimes. Food makes me happy!
To continue: Ooo look, Gressingham duck breasts! They look good. What to do with duck? Never mind, I’ll think of something later. Thunk go the breasts into the trolley. Of course once I’m home I’m clueless on how to prepare them having never cooked duck before (supermarket peking duck doesn’t really count). Many an ingredient has fallen foul of my impulsive grocery shopping in this way. I’ll have to tell you the tale of the doomed celeriac next time.
All I could think of for the duck was this super retro dish. A few clicks on the internet later and I had an amalgation of what needed to be done. Still I thought, pssshh… duck in an orange sauce, how great can it be? But but but…The smoky saltiness of that crisp skin and richness of the lightly blushing meat combined with the tangy sweet sauce made for an incredible taste sensation. No more scornful derision from me, this dish was famous back in the day for a reason.
To be honest, I made this dish so long ago I can’t quite remember the proportion of sugar/acid/stock that goes into the orange sauce, but taste and adjust as you go along and you’ll eventually get it right!
2 duck breasts, skin on
Salt and black pepper
For the orange sauce
2 tbsps white sugar
Juice from 5 satsumas/1 large orange
150ml of chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 tsp cornstarch
1. Heat a frying pan on medium to high heat.
2. Season the breasts on both sides with salt and black pepper.
3. Score the duck skin down to the flesh diagonally one way, then the other to create diamonds on the surface. Be sure not to cut through the flesh instead.
4. Place both breasts skin side down on the hot dry pan and cook for 9 minutes, letting the duck fat render out from under the skin to cook the meat.
5. Turn them over and cook for another 7 minutes. I also place them on their sides for a short 10-20 seconds each to give the breasts an even colour. If you’re not sure how cooked your duck is, err on the slightly underdone side as resting it will continue the cooking process. It should yield with pressure similar to pressing on your nose tip.
6. Remove the breasts from the pan and let them rest while you prepare the sauce.
7. Drain the duck fat into a separate bowl.
For the sauce
1. Lower the heat to a low medium.
2. Wipe the pan clean of the burnt bits and place it back on the heat.
3. Put the sugar in the pan and leave it without stirring to caramelize.
4. Once it reaches a deep brown colour, add the orange juice, chicken stock, cinnamon and star anise to the pan. The caramel might seize up a bit but it will dissolve again with a bit of stirring. I like to add a teaspoon of the liquid duck fat into the sauce to give it more flavour.
5. Let it simmer gently, taste and adjust accordingly. If it’s too sweet, add more orange juice and vice versa.
6. Thicken the sauce with some corn starch at the end.
I served the duck with some mashed potatoes (skins left in) with sliced spring onions mixed in. There was also a tangy grated carrot salad that went with it to cut through the richness of the duck.