This week is our thirty-third anniversary. This is also the week my radiator gave out. Guess what I am getting as an anniversary present? The joke in our house is we always have to replace an appliance around holidays and special occasions. Man O insists that a car is not an appliance. I say it is since it make my life easier. That’s my definition of an appliance.
|This is a 1930s car radiator. Modern versions don't look that much better. Jewelry it is not.|
We had grand plans of going out to our favorite French restaurant, run by natives of that glorious country. Man O gets the sea bass and I get the duck. We can count on stellar ingredients and beautiful presentation. The ingredients are pure. No preservatives. No allergy issues. A high price tag for our little culinary adventure. Sigh. Not in the cards this year with the car issues. True love always faces trials.
Speaking of true love and trials.... One of the reasons I fell in love with Man O is because he fell in love with the movie Casablanca, containing the famous line, “We’ll always have Paris.” A girl with seven years of French under her belt and a passion for old movies thinks that way.
|What a view! Oh, and Paris looks pretty good too.|
Man O and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Paris. We took a boat tour on the Seine, seeing all the famous bridges spanning the river. We visited museums, climbed the Eiffel Tour and busted our knees getting to the top of L’arc de Triomphe. But most importantly, we ate well, in little street bistros, grand chateaux and country inns.
At one chateau/fine dining establishment, I ate pigeon. Pigeon that practically cooed. Pigeon that was so raw I couldn't eat it. I tried to be polite and not send it back. But the chef caught wind of my discomfort. He was not amused. Never, ever, ever make a French chef mad. They are rather temperamental. In the middle of his lecture, I vowed to stick with duck as a fancy chicken alternative for the rest of my life. Never had I been served one that quacked!
Now back to our anniversary meal. I was prepared to learn how to duck hunt by watching Duck Dynasty. I thought it would be that hard to procure it! But hunting up duck in my local stores was not difficult. Nothing about the recipe was as difficult as I thought it was supposed to be. Maybe my view had something to do with an expensive restaurant price tag.
Until now, I thought of duck as special restaurant meal, not a fix at home dish. But Duck L'Orange is one of those recipes that sounds challenging but isn't. It also isn't as expensive. If you don't hunt, duck can be found in the freezer section of your local grocery. Duck breasts run around six dollars in our area.
We are cutting down on meat so I made medallions and filled the rest of the place with sauteed spinach, baked potatoes, and a bakery croissant for Man O. The whole meal was less than an appetizer at our lovely French restaurant. Add some candles, Parisian music on the ipod, a tablecloth and grandma's old china. All set for a romantic celebration!!!!
Now for the instructions. Brace yourself. I am listing all the alternative ways you can make this dish with ingredients on hand, if you are watching sugar, fat or have allergies. I tweaked it and removed the expensive ingredients like grand mariner and fresh shallots. But I can tell you, it is a special occasion dish worth the use of a little sugar and butter.
Easy Duck L’Orange
1 duck breast (or more)
1 orange (half juiced, half sliced) or ½ cup orange juice (Double with each breast added.)
1 cup chicken stock (I use my own stock but canned stock is okay. Organic is better but pricier. Do not add salt if you use processed stock. It has enough already.)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1T balsamic vinegar
¼ cup sugar ( if cutting sugar, use a teaspoon and follow thickening instructions)
1/4 teaspoon Penzey's Sunny Paris seasoning, Herbes de Provence, or diced shallots, sauteed
|Got my ingredients ready to go, well, most of them.|
Step 1: Score duck skin in crosshatch marks. Place two tablespoons of butter in skillet and melt. Add duck, skin side down. Cook on medium low until done to desired, approximately 12-15 minutes for medium rare and more for medium. Do not turn but lift to make sure skin is brown and crispy. Some recipes suggest medium rare but we are more medium people. We were scarred by the pigeon experience. Remove and set duck aside to rest while you prepare the sauce.
Step 2: Pour duck fat out of pan. Add tablespoon butter and melt on medium low. Add sugar and stir until melting into the butter, scraping browned bits as you go.
|This is how the L'Orange Sauce with look at the beginning.|
Step 3: Add chicken stock and orange juice. Turn up heat and reduce the sauce until thickened, stirring constantly. [If not using sugar or in a hurry, put one tablespoon corn or potato starch in the cold stock or juice and stir to dissolve, then add to the pan. But it is better not to use the starch, just sayin'. Use patience and do the reduction. ]
|Your sauce will thicken and look like this.|
Step 4: Add the vinegar, spices and/or sauteed shallots. Stir to blend and take off the eye. The sauce will thicken even more as it cools.
Step 5: Place the breast (or cut medallions, if you are sharing one piece) on the plate. Pour sauce over the meat. Decorate with orange slices.
As the French say, "Voila!"
Yes, I cut out some ingredients to make it cheaper. Yes, I cut out some steps to make it faster. But the end result was still delicious, inexpensive, and I feel empowered to try more "difficult" (or so I thought) dishes!
Do you have a special dish you make after finding out it really is not as hard as you thought?Or do you go to a special place every year for celebrations? Do tell!