Roast Duck with Orange Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Editor's Note: This roast duck recipe is a labor of love that is well worth the effort. To prepare Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, a flavorful sauce is made from rich homemade duck stock, a sweet-and-sour reduction, and orange peel. Wine and orange liqueur also help to give the final sauce a delicious flavor. This oven-roasted duck is the ideal recipe to prepare for a dinner party or special occasion. For more duck recipes, be sure to check out the variations listed below, including Roast Duck with Peaches and Roast Duck with Cherries. You can't go wrong with this classic Julia Child recipe no matter which flavorful variation you choose.

One of the most well known of all the duck dishes, caneton â l’orange, is roast duck decorated with fresh orange segments and accompanied by an orange-flavored brown sauce. Its most important element is its sauce—a rich, strong, meaty, duck essence darkened with caramel, flavored with wine and orange peel, and given a light liaison of arrowroot. You can and should prepare the sauce well ahead of time so that when the duck is roasted, the dish is within 2 to 3 minutes of being done.

Serves5 or 6 people

Cooking MethodRoasting


OccasionCooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe CourseMain Course

Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free


MoodAdventurous, Festive

Taste and TextureCrisp, Fruity, Meaty, Savory, Spiced, Sweet


  • 4 brightly colored navel oranges
  • A 5½-lb ready-to-cook duckling
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 3 Tb granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups strong, brown duck stock (follow directions for brown chicken stock using duck giblets instead of chicken giblets)
  • 2 Tb arrowroot blended with 3 Tb port or Madeira
  • The rest of the blanched orange peel
  • The 4 oranges, skinned
  • ½ cup port or Madeira
  • The prepared sauce base
  • 2 or 3 Tb good orange liqueur
  • Drops of orange bitters or lemon juice
  • 2 Tb softened butter
  • A 4-cup saucepan


  1. Blanching the orange peel

    Remove the orange part of the skin in strips with a vegetable peeler. Cut into julienne (small strips 1/16 inch wide and ½ inches long). Simmer for 15 minutes in a quart of water. Drain. Pat dry in paper towels.

    Roasting the duck

    Season the duck cavity with salt and pepper, add a third of the prepared orange peel, and truss the duck. Place the duck breast up in the roasting pan, strew the vegetables around it, and set it in the middle level of the oven for 15 minutes to brown lightly.

  2. Reduce oven to 350 degrees, and turn the duck on its side. Regulate heat so duck is always making cooking noises but fat is not burning. Remove accumulated fat occasionally (a bulb baster will it up easily). Basting is not necessary.

  3. About 30 minutes later, or about halfway through, turn the duck on its other side.

  4. Fifteen minutes before the end of the estimated roasting time, salt the duck and turn it breast side up. The duck is done to a medium rare if the juice from the fattest part of the thigh or drumstick runt faintly rosy when the meat is pricked, and when the duck is lifted and drained, the last drops of the juice from the vent are a pale rose. The duck is well done when the juices run pale yellow.

    The sauce base

  5. While the duck is roasting, make a sweet-and-sour caramel coloring as follows: Boil the sugar and vinegar over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned into a mahogany-brown syrup. Immediately remove from heat and pour in ½ cup of the duck stock. Simmer for a minute, stirring, to dissolve the caramel. Then add the rest of the stock, beat in the arrowroot mixture, and stir in the orange peel. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sauce is clear, limpid, and lightly thickened. Correct seasoning, and set aside.

    The orange segments

    Cut the 4 oranges into neat, skinless segments and place in a covered dish.

    Final assembly

    When the duck is done, discard trussing strings, and set it on a platter. Place it in the turned-off hot oven, leaving the door ajar.

  6. Remove as much fat as you can from the roasting pan. Add the wine and boil it down rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices and reducing the liquid to 2 or 3 tablespoons.

  7. Strain the wine reduction into the sauce base and bring to the simmer. Stir in the orange liqueur by spoonfuls, tasting. The sauce should have a pleasant orange flavor but not be too sweet. Add drops of orange bitters or lemon juice as a corrective.

  8. Just before serving, and off heat, swirl in the butter enrichment, and pour the sauce into a warmed sauceboat.

  9. Place a line of orange segments over the length of the duck and heap the rest at the two ends of the platter. Spoon a bit of sauce with peel over the duck, and serve.


    Cantenon Montmorency (Roast Duck with Cherries)

    Cherries or peaches are also good as a garnish for roast duck.

    36 to 48 red or black pitted cherries (if frozen, thaw and drain)

    1 Tb lemon juice

    3 Tb port or cognac

    2 to 3 Tb granulated sugar

    2 Tb softened butter

  11. Roast the bird as directed in the master recipe. Make the caramel-colored and arrowroot-thickened sauce described for the preceding caneton â l’orange, omitting the orange peel and orange liqueur. The fruit is heated in the sauce as follows: Toss the cherries in the saucepan with the lemon juice, port or cognac, and sugar. Let them soak for at least 20 to 30 minutes. After the duck has roasted, and the pan juices have been deglazed with wine and added to the sauce, pour the sauce into the cherries. Heat to below the simmer for 3 to 4 minutes to poach the cherries (if liquid simmers, the fruit may shrivel). Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and distribute them over and around the duck. Boil the sauce rapidly to reduce and thicken it slightly. Correct seasoning. Off heat, swirl in the enrichment butter. Pour the sauce into a warmed bowl, spoon a bit over the duck, and serve.

    Caneton aux Peches (Roast Duck with Peaches)

    3 large or 6 small, firm, ripe, freestone peaches (or drained canned peaches, minus the sugar below)

    2 Tb lemon juice

    2 to 3 Tb port or cognac

    2 to 3 Tb granulated sugar

  12. If using fresh peaches, peel and halve them not more than 30 minutes before serving so they will not discolor. Arrange the peaches in a fireproof dish and baste them with the liquids and sugar. Baste several times more before using. After the duck has roasted and the pan juices have been deglazed with wine and added to the sauce, pour the sauce over the peaches. Proceed as for the preceding duck with cherries recipe.


  14. Nothing should interfere with the flavors of the duck, the sauce, and the oranges. Sautéed or shoestring potatoes, or homemade potato chips are your best choice. Serve a good red Bordeaux-Medoc, or a chilled white Burgundy—Meursault, Montrachet, or Corton-Charlemagne.


Under the ingredients needed for the sauce are 2 cups of excellent duck stock. This should be prepared ahead of time, as it must simmer about 2 hours.


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