The first time I had duck, it was love at first bite. I was having lunch at a Thai restaurant near my college campus and they had a duck curry on their specials menu. Wanting to try something new, I ordered it, and was completely blown away by what I had been missing for nineteen years. So tender and comforting, the wonderfully rich flavor of duck meat cannot be matched within the world of poultry, at least in my opinion! My family usually prepares turkey around the holidays, but we’ve all kind of gotten bored with the taste of it, and so I decided that this holiday season would be a good time to change our traditional Holiday meal to a bird I find much more rich and flavorful. I reached out to the great folks at D’Artagnan about making Duck a l’Orange, because I had never made it before and had no idea which breed of duck would be best for it. D’Artagnan was incredibly helpful and recommended the Pekin duck for this particular recipe as that breed retains moisture best when roasted. D’Artagnan was founded by Ariane Daguin, whose dad, Andre Daguin, is famous throughout France for his foie gras (duck liver). She followed her father’s foosteps, but brought the duck industry over to the U.S. to provide this side of the globe with ecologically sound and humanely raised ducks, poultry, and other meats. I feel like meat tastes better when you know that it was raised in a kind and caring manner, maybe it’s because my meat-eater’s guilt complex is significantly reduced by the image of happy, flapping ducks quacking about in a lovely green field.
The duck meat went great with the sweet orange glaze and the tartness of the pomegranate. The persimmon I used was a wonderful addition as well, I got it at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and it was longer and redder than traditional persimmons, looking a bit like these and the top one here rather than like this. It has kind of a glaze-like texture naturally on its own and was a bit sweeter and juicer than regular persimmons, which makes it great for sauces (at least that’s what the lady behind the stand told me…turns out she was right!). I think I might try pureeing it and making a syrup for pancakes another time, it was so tasty! So if you want to blow away your guests this holiday season and try something fun and new, I highly recommend using this recipe and getting some tasty Pekin duck from D’Artagnan. You won’t regret it!
Begin by roasting the duck. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, cumin, and thyme. Set aside. Evenly distribute the chopped onions over the bottom of a casserole pan or roasting dish, reserving 1 tablespoon of the chopped onions in a separate medium-sized bowl. Add the sliced oranges, pomegranate kernels, minced garlic, and the fresh rosemary to the onions in the medium-sized bowl and toss lightly. Set aside.
Remove the innards from the duck and reserve the neck, discard the rest. Rub the duck inside and out with the olive oil, then rub it inside and out with the spice mixture. Place the duck in the pan on top of the chopped onions with the breast-side facing up. Stuff the duck with the pomegranate, orange slices, rosemary, garlic, and onion from the medium-sized bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of water around the duck over the onions. Place the duck in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Then remove the duck, lower the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, flip it over so it’s back is facing up, pour another 1/2 cup of water and the 1/2 cup of wine around the duck over the onions, and place the pan back in the oven. Allow to roast for another 30 minutes.
Now you can begin making the sauce. Pour the water into a small pot and add the duck neck, bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook the neck for about 7 minutes on each side. Heat the sugar and vinegar together in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. They will begin to bubble a lot and turn a light caramel-color, which will take about 5 minutes. Once they do, add the orange juice, honey, salt, and pomegranate juice and whisk together until well blended. The mixture will hiss and might spatter a little when you add the liquids, so be prepared.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add the persimmon slices. Allow the slices to steep and simmer in the syrup mixture for 15 minutes, taking care not to stir roughly or they may tear apart, and you want to keep them whole. Then, remove the duck neck from the small pot and discard it, but keep the small pot and it’s juices.
Once the 30 minutes is up on the roasted duck, remove it from the oven, flip it over again so that the breast is facing up again, and ladle about 2/3 cup of juices from the pan into the small pot with the juices from the duck neck. Place the pan back in the oven and allow to duck to roast for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the duck is 170 degrees Fahrenheit and the juices run clear. Make sure to peek at the duck every 15 minutes or so to make sure it isn’t over browning. If the tips of the wings begin to turn black but the duck itself is a nice golden brown but isn’t quite done yet, take the pan out and cover it with tin foil, then place it back in the oven and cook until the above requirements are met.
While the duck is continuing to roast, gently remove the persimmons from the syrup and set them aside on a small plate. Remove the syrup from heat and set aside. Place the small pot with the duck juices over low heat and add the butter, stirring until it is melted. Bring it to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Whisk in the flour until it is completely combined and the mixture has thickened.
Now, whisk the duck gravy from the small pot into the syrup in the
medium sized pot. Add the orange zest and the brandy and continue
whisking until everything is fluidly combined. Set aside.
Once the duck is done, carve it (I had never carved a duck before and found this instructional video helpful), and place the pieces on a serving platter. Serve the duck alongside the sauce and the candied persimmon slices.
When serving, place the cut of the duck on a plate, drizzle about 1/4 cup of the sauce over it, and place a persimmon slice on top for garnish.