Life, it can pass you by in a whir if you let it. We rush through our day-to-day, many times, without giving things as much as a second thought. Nowhere is this more evident than during our mealtimes. It seems as if our whole world is geared towards a “make it fast, spit it out of a box” mentality.
This is precisely why I like to occasionally pull out the Big Guns and prepare a full blown, 5-star meal that will knock the socks off everyone. We are not necessarily talking about a 5 or 6 course coup d’état. I do set my sights to make something impressive enough to make guests want to wonder into my kitchen to see if a star chef from the Food Network has stepped in to take my place.
By-passing those short for time and not for the faint-of-heart, Here are the mixings and makings of just such a meal. Taking inspiration from the early spring offerings at our market and my love for duck, here is what I managed to stir up!
Chinese 5 Spice Duck with Orange-Brandy Sauce
*A quick soak in an orange juice brine infuses the duck with lots of flavor.
For the Duck:
2-4 Maple Leaf Farms boneless duck breast
2 cups fresh navel or Valencia orange juice
2 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. Chinese 5 Spice
For the Sauce:
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
2 Tbs. brandy
1 cup fresh navel or Valencia orange juice
½ cup chicken stock
1 navel or Valencia orange, cut segments into thirds.
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
BRINE THE DUCK
Combine the orange juice, zest, 6 Tbs. Salt, and 4 cups water in a large bowl or pot; stir to dissolve the salt. Add the duck breasts and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
COOK THE DUCK
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400° F.
Remove the duck from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Lightly rub the duck breasts with olive oil, just enough to allow them to coat with Chinese 5 spice. Sprinkle the 5 Spice over duck breasts then rub them to evenly coat.
Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a 12-inch oven proof skillet over medium heat. I love my All-Clad D5 non-stick grilling pan for searing off meat in this manner! Add the duck breast and sear about 4 minutes to each side, turning only once.
Place the pan in the oven and roast until an instant thermometer registers 165º F in the center for rare duck or 165°F for a more well done breast. Cook time should be around 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let the duck rest while you prepare the sauce.
MAKE THE SAUCE
Pour the juices from the skillet into a heatproof measuring cup. Let the fat rise to the surface and then spoon it off.
Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 1-2 minutes. Off the heat, add the brandy. Return the pan to heat and cook, scraping the pan, until the brandy is almost evaporated, about 30 seconds.
Increase the heat to high and add the orange juice. Boil until thick and syrupy, and reduced to about 1/3 cup. About 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, pan juices and any juices left hanging around on the cutting board. Boil until reduced to about ¾ cup, about 3 minutes.
Swirl in the orange segments. Then, off the heat, swirl in the remaining 1 Tbs. butter and parsley until the butter is melted. Season to taste with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
To serve, cut the duck on diagonal into thin slices and arrange each on a bed of coriander carrot purée. Drizzle with the sauce.
* Try this as a side: