October is here. Who cares what the temperature gauge says or how the local teams did over the weekend? Who cares how much time a dish takes to cook now that the season has turned? I am getting ready for hibernation, so break out the cream and butter and dust-off the kettle . . . or if you like, blow the cobwebs from a French classic and get cooking. This recipe reminds me why great food is timeless. I cut the back bones out of the ducks when they have rested for 20 minutes after cooking, serving the duck in quarters. Two servings is half a duckling—a large portion per diner, but I rarely serve it any other way.
Duck a l’Orange
2 large Pekin (Long Island) ducklings, about 5–6 lbs. each
5 c. fresh orange juice
4 buds star anise, ground or crushed
4 c. rich duck stock or veal stock
1 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 c. Grand Marnier
Zest of 1 orange
1 shallot, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. lemon juice
Prick the ducks with a sharp fork and wriggle the skin to loosen. Marinate the ducks for 24–36 hours in the orange juice and ground star anise. I use the super-sized Ziploc bags.
Remove ducks from marinade, discard marinade, and place ducks on a rack in your refrigerator. Dry for 12 hours refrigerated and then 2 hours at room temperature.
Rack the ducks over a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, and stuff the cavities with rosemary and sliced oranges. Preheat the oven to 350 and roast ducks for 2 hours, turning and basting with the fat, pricking the skin occasionally when the leg joint wriggles in its socket.
Place the sugar and lemon juice in a high-sided saucepan over low-medium heat and slowly let it caramelize without stirring. When golden light brown, pull from heat and stir in the shallots, orange zest, and spices. Add the stock (it will bubble a lot—keep stirring), then the cup of orange juice and Grand Marnier, stirring. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and reduce to sauce consistency. Season with sherry wine vinegar, salt, and orange zest. Strain and keep warm.
Serve the duck with the sauce. Serves 4–6.