Recipe: Duck a la Triple Sec

The story: I had some frozen duck breasts, and my freezer was beginning to look like a meat stockpile, so I thought I’d give them a try. This was my first time cooking duck, and because of the price ($20 for 4 breasts) I wanted it to taste good. So I chose a simple recipe with a delicious-sounding sauce made with orange juice, chicken broth, a drizzle of honey, and some Earl Grey tea. I was halfway through the recipe when my husband reminded me that he can’t have caffeine at night and he was working the next morning.

$#@%! And thus, a recipe was born. Orange and duck go together like pois et carottes. Which is to say the French gave us Duck à l’Orange, and I’m sure they’re thrilled I’m giving this to the world.

Obviously because of the price, this is, as I and Cookie Monster like to say, a sometime treat unless you’re lucky and know a good hunter. A special occasion type of meal. Perhaps just the thing for a holiday dinner or that first date with the girl from the CrossFit gym.

If you’re worried about the sweetness of the Triple Sec, reduce it or sub the zest of one orange. I’m willing to bet this sauce would taste just as good with chicken or pork chops.

Duck à la Triple Sec

4 duck breasts

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 shallot or 1/2 onion, finely diced

1/2 cup chicken broth

3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

juice of 1/2 lemon

3 Tbsp. Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier or whatever orange liqueur is lurking around

2 tsp. dried thyme

3 Tbsp. butter

Optional Garnish: orange segments

1) Preheat oven to 425°F. Pierce skin of breasts all over with a fork. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Add breasts to large skillet over medium-high heat, skin side down, cooking until well-browned, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook another 2 minutes. Remove breasts from skillet, reserving drippings, and put in an ovenproof baking pan, then into the oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.

2) Reduce heat under skillet to medium and add shallot to drippings, stirring often to prevent burning. When shallots are translucent, deglaze the pan with the chicken broth, being sure to scrape up any browned bits, then add the orange juice, lemon juice, Triple Sec, and thyme. Simmer until reduced and thickening, about 15 minutes. Stir in butter, one tablespoon at a time until all 3 Tbsp. are incorporated. Adjust seasoning to taste with S&P. Turn off heat.

3) When duck is done, serve immediately on top of a pool of Triple Sec sauce, with more drizzled on top.

Serves 4 with sides, 2 as a simple dinner.

NOTES: The fatty duck skin is succulent and delicious. There was plenty of fat in the baking pan leftover to save for future use. People pay good money for that stuff! Simply strain once it’s cooled a bit and save in the refrigerator. Whirl it up with some liver for your very own pâté (We’re SO French!). I dare someone to make a duck fat mayonnaise (Another French word! It’s contagious!).

The side you see in the photo is baby broccoli from the Farmers Market quick-steamed in a pan with a few tablespoons of water, then sauteed with a pat of butter, a minced clove of garlic, and a dash of S&P.

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