Duck and oranges are a classic combination of flavours but here the emphasis is on a lighter result rather than the rich sauce one normally expects. Peppery watercress and bitter red leaved radicchio are a lively foil for the richness of the meat. A selection of salad leaves could replace the ones I have suggested but including some bitter leaves makes all the difference to the balance of the finished dish. The vinaigrette used to dress the salad leaves also becomes the sauce so the overall effect is somewhat refreshing. I like to serve a crisp potato dish to accompany such as a pommes allumetes or roasted rustic potatoes. I think 2 large duck breasts when being served with accompanying vegetables and potatoes are sufficient for 4 people, but you will know what is needed at your table.
Serves 2 -4
- 2 large duck breasts
- 2 oranges
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Zest of 1 orange
- Pinch of sugar
- 2 handfuls of watercress washed and dried
- 2 handfuls or radicchio leaves washed and dried
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 100c / 200f / gas1
Zest one of the oranges with a micro-plane or on a fine grater. Carefully segment the two oranges and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, orange zest and salt and pepper to make the vinaigrette. Taste and correct seasoning. Add the oranges to the vinaigrette and give them a gentle stir.
Place a cold grill pan on a medium heat and immediately place the duck breasts skin side down on the cold grill. This seems like such an odd thing to do and contradicts most of the normal rules of grilling meat. However it works quite brilliantly and while the skin is slowly crisping, the liquid fat renders out of the duck skin. Save all of that duck fat for roasting potatoes and vegetables – it will keep covered in the fridge for months. Cook on that medium heat until the skin has become crispy and a rich deep golden colour. This takes about 10 minutes.****** Turn over and finish cooking the duck on the other side. By now the centres of the breasts should be pink which is the way I like to serve them. I do not like it served rare as I find it to be tough. Place the cooked duck breasts to rest in a warm oven. They can rest for up to 30 minutes and the juices will be more evenly distributed through the flesh after the resting period. I put a small plate upside down and sitting on top of a bigger plate and sit the breasts to rest against the sloping edges of the upside down plate. This way any juices that run out of the duck breasts will be saved and equally importantly the meat will not be “stewing in its own juices”.
When ready to serve assemble the ingredients on a large hot serving dish or individual plates. Toss the leaves in just enough of the well mixed vinaigrette to make the leaves glisten. Place on the hot plates. Carve the duck breasts into neat slices and scatter through the leaves. Arrange the orange segments through the salad leaves and duck slices and drizzle on the remaining vinaigrette. I like to quickly reheat any of the cooking juices from the resting duck and add those as a final lick of flavour. Serve immediately.