Sometime in February the slow march out of winter begins. It’s still cold and wet but we can start looking forward now to that wonderful March day when the light evenings return. The weather always urges me to re-stock the larder like Ratty’s pantry in Wind in the Willows. Full of delightful treats that will emerge as the year progresses.
I had my first Canard à l’Orange in Normandy during our one rather painful family holiday. I remember thinking how sophisticated I was, enjoying this delight. The sourness of these oranges makes the Duck skin pucker up when left to marinade and thus delightfully crispy when roasted. So pick up a farmed duck from your butcher. Aylsebury’s are good. Take a knife down the back and carefully remove the breasts. Score the skin lightly. Slice two of the oranges and place them under the duck in a nice tight dish. In a pestle and mortar bring together about four large garlic cloves, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, marjoram and thyme. Remove half of this mixture and set aside. To the rest add the orange rind and juice. Smear this over the skin of the breasts and cover. Next remove the legs from the carcass, taking with it as much meat from around the thigh joint as possible. Rub the skin with rock salt and then smear the garlicky herb mixture all over them and leave both legs and breasts in the fridge for 2 days.
Roast the carcass. You should find that enough fat comes off this to make your confit. Pour off and leave in the fridge until you need it. Throw the carcass into your big pan with some more veg and simmer for a couple of hours. More stock in the freezer.
After the two days are up, clean the paste off the legs and pour over the melted duck fat to cover them completely. Cook for 2 hours in a medium oven. When done, put the legs into a jar and cover in the fat. They’ll keep for ever and some day when you need that cheering up, you have something special right there. Of course you havent eaten any of this duck yet so get your breasts out as they say, and roast them quickly in the marinade for about 15 minutes. Serve with something like a chicory and walnut salad.