Happy National Waffle and National Oyster Day! In honor of these special occasions, I’ll be making oyster waffles today!
Don’t worry. I’m totally kidding. We don’t need to celebrate every food holiday.
No, we will not be having oyster waffles today. We’re having crepes. I was watching a show on the Food Network the other night, Best Thing I Ever Ate, where top chefs shared, you guessed it, the best things they’ve ever eaten. Chef Beau Macmillan talked about these crepes filled with Nutella and covered with strawberries and bananas that he ate at a place called FlipHappy in Austin, Texas. Everything about them looked delicious. I set my mind on making crepes sometime this week. Since I’ve already shared a dessert recipe this week, I figured I should make savory crepes. It took me all of about a minute to decide what to make.
I’ve had Duck a l’Orange cued in my draft list for weeks, just waiting for the right opportunity. I’d planned to serve the sliced duck breast a l’orange with rice or potatoes, perhaps pommes dauphinoise. But something about the sweet and savory orange sauce with orange zest and juicy orange supremes is screaming to put in a crepe. I think I’ve found my perfect opportunity to make duck a l’orange.
Don’t be put off by the fancy name and don’t be intimidated if you’ve never made duck before. This meal is really a piece of cake. Make it for a dinner party and impress your guests with your fancy French dish. Really impress them by talking about how you started with a gastrique (which is just the slightly caramelized sugar/vinegar combination that starts the sauce). Bowl them over by mentioning that you reduced the orange juice to concentrate the flavor or comment on the fresh orange supremes. Chat about how you rendered the duck fat or how you mounted the sauce with butter just prior to serving, to give it a nice, rich feel. Then, toss your hair back, giggle, and say, “Really, it was nothing.” Seriously though, this dish is really not too complicated to make and works really well for dinner parties since it can be mostly prepared ahead of time.
For the purpose of this recipe, we’re using duck breasts. No need to deal with a whole duck. My supermarket carries packaged duck breasts right near the poultry section. If you can’t find them at your grocery store, try asking at the butcher counter. They may be able to order them for you. Doesn’t hurt to ask. The packaged duck breasts I purchased came pre-scored, for my convenience. If yours are not, you’ll want to cut a crosshatch pattern in the fat, being careful not to cut into the meat. The crosshatch pattern will help the fat the break down during cooking.
You can prepare the sauce and even cook the duck ahead of time. Zest and supreme your oranges beforehand too. When dinner rolls around, you’ll simply need to cook the crepes, reheat the sauce with the duck and orange supremes. Add the zest and butter and you’ll be in business!
Edited to add: As I discovered last night, the crepes actually reheat well too. Wrap the cooked crepes in foil and refrigerate until you’re ready to use. To reheat, place the stack of crepes between two paper towels and microwave for about 20 seconds or so.
Duck Breast a l’Orange in Crepes
For the Duck
- 2 Duck Breasts
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 1/8 cup White Wine Vinegar
- 2 Ice Cubes
- 1 cup Orange Juice
- 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
- 2 tsp Cornstarch
- 2 tsp Water
- 1 Tbsp Butter, cold
- 2 Oranges, supremed*
- Zest from 1 Orange
- Salt and Pepper
* Click here to see how to supreme an orange.
For the Crepes
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 cup Flour
- 1 1/4 cup Milk, plus a bit more if necessary
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
For the sauce: Combine sugar and vinegar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to turn a medium amber color. Remove from heat. Add an ice cube or two to stop the cooking, so it does not become too dark or burn. (This is your gastrique.)
Add the orange juice. Whisk to combine and return to the heat. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes until the sauce has reduced to 1/2 cup. Add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until about 1 cup of sauce remains. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Add a spoonful of the hot sauce to the cornstarch mixture. Then add the mixture to the sauce. Simmer for another minute or two until the sauce is well thickened. Season with a little salt and pepper. Remove from heat. You can prepare the sauce to this point ahead of time.
For the duck: Season the duck breasts with a little salt and pepper. Heat a pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when it touches to pan. Place the duck breasts in the pan, fatty side down. Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Most of the fat will render (melt away) and you’ll be left with a thin crispy layer of fat.
Turn the breasts, cover, and cook on the other side for about 10 minutes. They should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees, as measured by an instant-read meat thermometer. Remove from the pan and allow the duck breasts to rest for about 5 minutes. Remove the remaining layer of fat, if desired. Cut the duck breast into small pieces.
For the crepes:
Lightly beat the eggs with the salt. Combine the eggs with the flour, milk, oil, and sugar. Add additional milk, if necessary. The batter should move very easily, but not be overly liquidy. Spray a flat-bottom, nonstick skillet with cooking spray, then heat the skillet over medium heat. Hold the pan off the heat and use a measuring cup to pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan. Quickly, turn the pan to spread the batter across the entire bottom. Place the pan over the heat and cook for less than a minute. Use a spatula to loosen one of the edges. Then, use your hands to flip the crepe. Cook for a few seconds more on the other side. Make 8 crepes.
To assemble the dish:
When you’re ready to serve, reheat the sauce in a saucepan. Add the orange segments, about half of the orange zest and the pieces of duck. Toss to gently combine. Simmer gently for a few minutes until the duck and sauce are heated. Remove from the heat. Add the butter and gently swirl the mixture until it melts and blends with the sauce. Place a spoonful of the mixture onto one quarter of the crepe.
Fold the crepe in half over the mixture, then in half again to form a triangle shape.
Repeat for all crepes. Serve each person 2 prepared crepes. Drizzle with a little extra sauce, if desired. Garnish with the remaining orange zest.
Makes 4 Servings
**If you wish to make this duck a l’orange to serve in a way other than with crepes, you can follow the same procedure, but slice the duck, rather than cutting it into small pieces. Also, you can omit the cornstarch in the sauce. I added cornstarch to thicken the sauce to prevent the crepes from getting soggy, but if you’re not serving the dish with crepes, this is not a concern.