Secret Sauce

Duck à l’Orange (Kind of, Sort of) by Le Pigeon


From Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon:

Duck can be scary to cook, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to practice, and find the flavors you like to pair it with. This is a classic preparation of duck and citrus, featuring a basic pan sauce technique that you can apply to many dishes. (Want to see a full tutorial of this recipe? Follow along on Instagram here.)



The Duck & Sauce

2 duck breasts (see Note)

Kosher salt, to taste

2 tablespoons minced shallots

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons curry powder

Zest of 1 orange

¼ cup brandy or bourbon

1½ cups orange juice

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup lime juice (optional)


The Vegetables

1 turnip (about 3 ounces), cut in wedges

1 large carrot, cut in ½-inch thick coins

12 cipollini onions, peeled

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cumin

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fleur de sel, to taste


To Finish

Orange segments, for garnish

Chive batons, for garnish

Mint leaves, for garnish



For the duck breasts: Trim off any sinew on the flesh side, then flip the breast over, and trim any excess skin hanging over the side. Next comes the most important part: Scoring the skin. Using a sharp knife, slice the skin in a crosshatch or diamond pattern. (You want to go just deep enough so your knife cuts the skin, not the meat.)

Season the duck breasts with a little kosher salt, and place them in a large, room temperature cast-iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high; as the duck starts to cook, it will render out as much fat as possible, and get a nice, crispy skin. By the time you have a golden brown skin, about 15 minutes, the duck breasts will be cooked most of the way through. Flip the duck breasts, and cook the flesh side for another minute or two. (For medium-rare, pull the duck breasts when they reach 125℉ on an instant-read thermometer; for medium, 140℉.) Let the duck breasts rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

For the sauce: While the duck breasts are resting, make the sauce. Drain most of the fat from the skillet, and add the shallots, garlic, curry, and orange zest. Over medium-high heat, cook for 1 minute, then deglaze with brandy (be careful, it can flame up). Add the orange juice and honey, and cook until reduced down to about ⅓ cup. Remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and a little lime juice, if desired. 

For the vegetables: Meanwhile, place the turnips, carrots, and onions in a single layer in the bottom of another large cast-iron skillet. Add the brown sugar, cumin, lemon zest and juice, butter, and enough water to cover the vegetables about ¾ of the way. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced. (The vegetables should be done cooking at this point.) Give the vegetables a toss, and a season with a little fleur de sel.

To finish and serve: Slice the rested duck breasts, and arrange on serving plates, along with the glazed vegetables. Spoon the sauce over the duck and vegetables, and garnish with orange segments, chive batons, and mint.


Serves 2.

Note: If using the smaller Pekin duck breasts, you’ll only need two breasts, about 5 ounces each. If you can get your hands on the larger magret variety, one breast will be plenty.  Don’t worry if your local butcher doesn’t have fresh duck, check the freezer aisle at an upscale grocer; you will have a good chance finding it there.