"Look Gerald, This Must be Posh, They've Got Duck a l'Orange on the Menu."
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Diary and Notes
Quite possibly the pinnacle of 1970's cuisine was that most classic of combinations, duck with orange sauce. For some bizarre reason however, it's not called duck in orange sauce, nor canard a l'orange (the French) but a weird mismatch of both languages which allow the menu reader to understand what the dish is, yet think it sounds sophisticated and foreign at the same time.
I have to be honest I've never had duck a l'orange before - nobody under the age of 45 has. This was not a dish that people cooked at home but something that people went out to eat, a staple of those new fangled inventions, the bistro and the wine bar. This was the pinnacle of taste in it's day (so I am told) and everybody I mentioned this to said "I remember that." Though nobody could ever recall actual eating it.
I don't know if the stories about duck a l'orange are actually myths. It may be that this was only served at one famous restaurant in London and everybody got to hear about it and it went down in culinary history a famous as Moby Dick but equally as elusive. I am inclined to believe that although it was a seventies classic it was never a ubiquitous one and was probably never served outside of central London. Anyway, this being 70's week and this being the absolute quintessence of 1970's chic I thought I'd have a go and see what it was like.
The recipe below is based on an amalgam of three recipes (all French) from my culinary library. All these described cooking a whole duck but I only had legs so some adaptation was required. The addition of the fresh thyme was my idea and I'd recommend this as a variation. It wasn't a particularly hard dish to prepare and as I managed to pick up the duck legs pretty cheaply it wasn't too expensive either (apart from the Grand Marnier of course).
Overall not a bad dish and I can see why it would have been popular back then. I do however think there are better flavours to accompany duck than orange, but if you like meat and fruit together, this is worth a go.
In true bistro style I had some very thin home made chips (or pommes frites as our bistro would have said) and some parsnip chips as well - and a glass or two of Cotes du Rhone (I should have bought Blue Nun or Black Tower but I will only go so far with my concessions to bad taste).
I shall be making use of the Grand Marnier again tomorrow, try and have a guess at what I'll cook.
A custard slice from a bakers in the centre of town. Greasy and not good at all.
Duck a l'Orange
Duck: Duck legs, butter, fresh thyme, salt, pepper, oranges, Grand Marnier, flour, wine vinegar, chicken stock.
First peel the zest off one of the oranges (make sure there's no white pith) and cut it into very thin strips. Put in a cup, pour over some boiling water and leave to infuse. Peel the oranges removing every last trace of pith and then slice very thinly.
Trim any excess fat off the duck and cut slices in the skin, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the fresh thyme (tied into a bundle) and fry the duck until browned, then put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer gently for an hour, turning occasionally and checking to make sure it's not so hot that the duck burns. Afer an hour, add a good dose of Grand Marnier and cook for another five minutes with the lid off, then remove the duck and layer the orange slices all over, wrap in foil and keep in a warm place while you make the sauce.
Sauce: The juice from the duck will be too fatty so you'll need to tip away the top to leave just the flavoured duck stock and butter. This is easier if it's transferred to a jug. Heat the duck juices/butter and add some flour to make a roux. Stir in some chicken stock, the orange zest infused water (including the orange zest), a dash of wine vinegar, some more Grand Marnier and cook gently until it thickens to a good sauce consistency, season and serve alongside the duck in a gravy boat.