pan-seared duck breast with orange sauce

Growing up, I used to go with my parents and brother to this small hole-in-the-wall French restaurant called L'Escargot. It was run by the nicest husband and wife, but sadly has since closed down. They served the most delicious duck breast with perfectly crispy skin and a tart orange glaze, known as "duck a l'orange" in classic French cuisine. It has been a life goal of mine to recreate a version of this dish. It is surprisingly easy to make, provided you can find boneless duck breast in your nearby grocery store or butcher shop. Bon appetit!

  • Duck breast (2 boneless Muscovy duck breast halves, approximately 1 pound each; thawed if previously frozen)

  • Salt (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Sugar (1/4 cup)

  • Shallot (1 small, diced)

  • Orange zest (from 2 oranges, approximately 1 tablespoon)

  • Orange juice (from 2 oranges, approximately 1/4 cup)

  • Lemon zest (from 1 lemon, approximately 1/2 teaspoon)

  • Lemon juice (from 1 lemon, approximately 2 tablespoons)

  • Sherry vinegar (2 tablespoons)

  • Beef broth (1/2 cup)

  • Ground cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon)

  • Butter (2 tablespoons)

  1. Score the fat on the duck breasts with a sharp knife, creating a cross hatch pattern on each breast. Season each breast liberally with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set aside until ready to cook.

  2. To make the sauce, dissolve the sugar in 2 teaspoons of water and bring to a simmer. Cook the sugar over low heat until it becomes golden brown, swirling occasionally but trying not to move too much to disturb the caramelization.

  3. When the sugar is golden brown, add the diced shallot, orange and lemon zest and juices, sherry vinegar, beef broth, and cinnamon. Whisk together until evenly combined and reduce over low heat until you have approximately 1 cup of sauce remaining.

  4. While the sauce is reducing, heat a steel skillet over high heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook for 5 or 6 minutes until the skin becomes crispy and brown.

  5. Using tongs, flip the duck breasts and cook on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes.

  6. Remove the duck breasts to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

  7. Add the 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce and stir until dissolved. Then remove the orange sauce from the heat. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a separate bowl.

  8. To serve, slice the duck breasts thinly with a sharp knife and drizzle the sauce over the top.