Last Updated on 9 months by Tim
Wintertime is duck time. While seldom served in the warmer months of the year, it remains a favorite during the cold season. Richer, gamier, and more tender than chicken, a properly cooked duck always excites.
As with all meats that have a slight gaminess to them, duck is served with a sweet and sour sauce. Duck à l’Orange might be one of the most famous French dishes, and this is the German version of this classic.
It’s traditional in Germany to serve duck or goose with potato dumplings and braised red cabbage. This dish is actually what for a great majority of Germans Christmas dinner looks like. It’s a perfect balance of textures and flavors: Rich, sweet, salty, acidic, tender, crispy, and chewy.
How to cook the duck
My recipe for orange duck calls for a whole duck. But I won’t roast it whole in the oven. Yes, that is possible, but I think there is so much more flavor and texture to gain by separating the duck into its individual parts.
The carcass and wings are used to cook a duck stock that will form the basis of the orange sauce. The legs are steamed until tender and then crisped up under the broiler. And the duck breasts are pan-roasted and served pink in the center.
You can trim all the excess fat and skin from the carcass of the body. It can then be rendered in a large frying pan over medium heat. It’s a delicious fat to keep for frying vegetables or potatoes.
How to cook the sauce
The orange sauce is incredibly easy to cook and comes together very quickly once you have cooked the duck stock from the carcass. In case you intend to do this recipe with duck breast or legs only, you can also use beef broth instead of duck stock.
Sherry wine and orange juice are simmered in a large saute pan until they are reduced by about two thirds. Sherry is a very nice wine to use for this sauce because of its sweet and fruity flavor. You can substitute it with Madeira or port wine in case you don’t have any on hand.
It’s important that you don’t leave your stove while the sherry and orange juice is reducing as the sauce can burn very easily. Burnt sugar is a pain in the ass to clean and produces horrible smelling smoke.
Once the sherry and orange juice mixture is reduced, you can add your duck stock. Leave the sauce again to reduce, this time by about half. Then you can thicken it with a cornstarch slurry. Always be conservative with how much cornstarch you add and rather leave the sauce too thin than too thick and gummy.
When seasoning the sauce, be generous with the amount of sherry vinegar you add. The sweetness from the orange and sherry needs to be balanced with acidity. Otherwise, you will end up with an awfully sweet sauce.
The final tablespoon of butter to finish the sauce should be swirled into the sauce just before serving and off the heat. The butter will give the sauce a nice shine and brighten the flavor.
How to serve the orange duck
You can do a lot of the prep work for this orange duck in advance. The duck stock can be made up to a week beforehand. The duck legs can be steamed a couple of days before, and the sauce can be made up to a week in advance as well.
When ready to serve, you then just need to pan-roast the duck breasts to your preferred level of doneness. While the duck breasts are resting after cooking, you can then heat up your sauce again and crisp up the duck legs under the broiler.