Anatra all'arancia (Duck a l'orange)

 

What is such a quintessential French dish doing here? It’s all a matter of History. When Caterina de’ Medici married Henry II of France in 1533 she knew she would miss her beloved Florence. Her solution was therefore to bring a number of Italian cooking tomes with her, for the French court to learn the preparation of typical Italian recipes. One of them was paparo alla melarancia, the ancient Tuscan name for Duck a l’orange, which was unknown outside of Florence. This is also why French cuisine seems to make a quality quantum leap around the late Sixteenth century: that’s just the effect of the sudden Italian influx. How French people later stole the paternity of the recipe is entirely another story…

 

Ingredients

- 1 whole duck (about 2,3 kg), cleaned

- 3 oranges

- 110 g Grand Marnier

- 25 g butter

- 2 laurel leaves

- Salt

- Pepper

- 450 g potatoes

- 5 twigs rosemary

- 35 g extra-virgin olive oil

- 15 g Maizena (or other corn starch)

- 20 g water

- 60 g white sugar

- 150 g freshly squeezed orange juice

Preparation

Ask your butcher to give you part of the duck’s fat along with the fowl, to be used to flavor the sauce. Singe the possibly remaining feathers on an open flame, wash the duck thoroughly both inside and outside, then dry it with a cloth. Mix some salt, pepper and the laurel, and place it inside the fowl. Tie the duck making sure the legs and the wings are close to the body, that they stay in place and that the overall shape is suitably elegant. Carefully wash and brush the potatoes, dry them and cut them unpeeled in slices. Put them in an oven pan fit with oiled paper and add 15 g of oil, salt and pepper. Complete with the rosemary. Warm the oven at 190 C – while you wait, take oven-compatible pot, warm it and mix the oil, the butter and the duck fat in it. Add the duck, lightly roast it on both sides on a medium flame, then sprinkle it with the Grand Marnier and let it evaporate while pouring the cooking oils over the fowl with a spoon. Cover the pot, place it in the oven together with the potatoes pan and cook for 40 minutes. As they are cooking, slice one orange in half-centimeter high slices. Peel the remaining two with a vegetable peeler, squeeze them (strain and keep the juice!) and dip the rinds for a few seconds in a small pot of boiling water. Strain and cut them into very thin sticks. Wait for the 40 minutes to complete and pull both the duck and the potatoes out of the oven, but keep them warm. For the next step you will need a cooking thermometer or your glaze just won’t do. Boil some water in a pot, add the sugar while mixing continuously and take notice of the temperature. When it is 166 C add the strained orange juice and whip the mix to perfection. Kill the flame, add two or three spoons of the cooking oils from the duck and keep stirring. Now mix the corn starch with a little water, mix and add it to the sauce. The last step is to strain it all and to add the sliced orange rinds. Use a cooking brush to brush the duck with the sauce. It will become sticky and a perfect surface on which to place the orange slices. Brush some more sauce over them. Set the oven to 180 C, cook the duck for 10 more minutes without any cover. If you are a perfectionist you may want to check the inside temperature, which should be about 165 C. Turn the grill on, grill for 10 more minutes, then add the potatoes. Finally, mockingly raise a glass to France.