According to no less an authority that Julia Child, roast duck with orange sauce (Caneton à l’Orange in her iconic book) is “one of the most well known of all the duck dishes.”
That ubiquity also makes it one of the most derided. Duck à l’orange had its heyday in the 1960s, when every French restaurant served it and Julia helped popularize it.
Does that make it a dated dish?
Deeper Dive into Duck à l’Orange
This dish has deep roots, probably going back to the ancient Middle East, as dishes from that region often combined meat and fruit. The fruit balances the fat and flavor of meat with bright, tart notes. This combination was “the rule in the Middle Ages and held sway down to the end of the seventeenth century: almost all recipes for meat up to that time contain sugar,” according to Jean-Francois Revel in Culture and Cuisine: A Journey Through the History of Food.
The kings of France planted oranges in the 16th century, but the fruit didn’t catch on until the 17th century, which is when we see the first reference to orange sauce. Cookbooks call for adding a little orange juice to the juices from a roasted duck (Glorious French Food, James Peterson). Was this the beginning of duck à l’orange?
The first true recipe for the dish seems to be from the 19th century; in The French Cook, Louis Eustach Ude calls it Ducklings à la Bigarade (bitter orange), and lavishes citrus sauce over the whole thing.
His notes on serving the duck: “Do not think of dishing en couronne, to give it a better appearance, but send it up in the sauce, and they who eat it will fare the better.”
Duck à l’Orange Today
Wherever it came from, duck à l’orange remained a classic throughout the 20th century. Today there are over 22 million search results for the dish on Google, so it seems to have held favor into the 21st century. The flavors have worked for centuries, and they won’t stop now.
You can feel free to play with the recipe, as Beeta at Mon Petit Four, a charming food blog, just did. Her simple recipe uses our duck magret rather than a whole duck, and a clever shortcut with the sauce, making this an achievable weeknight dinner.
For those who desire the whole duck experience, try our Easy Duck à l’Orange recipe, which uses our exclusive Rohan duck. This is a very good roasting duck, large and meaty, with a richer flavor than the popular Pekin duck.
Did you know? Caneton means “duckling” and canard means duck; you may find the dish referred to either way.
If you make any duck recipes with our products, we would love to see the results. Share photos and tips with us on social media. Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter so we can see what’s cooking.