This recipe is one of the best I’ve enjoyed in recent months. I may be a bit biased as duck is one of my favourite dishes, but this whole roast duckling roasted with peaches in a variation on the classic Caneton a l’Orange recipe is a serious indulgence not to be missed. The sauce is a revelation, which is no surprise since I searched into Julia Child’s classic recipe collection to find it. I’ve simplified the whole process a bit here, as the original recipe is a complicated combination of three various dishes, and once you look it over you’ll see that it is really not too complex. A serious contender for a twist on a small Thanksgiving gathering, I’d say.
Caneton aux Pêches (Roast Duck with Peaches)
1 5 1/2 lb. duckling
small bunch of fresh thyme
1/2 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
5 tbsp. sugar, divided
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups beef stock
2 tbsp. arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp. Madeira or Port wine
4 tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
2 tbsp. soft butter
4 ripe peaches, quartered
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
Take the duck out of the fridge a few hours before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Wash the bird well, removing any giblets, and pat completely dry inside and out with paper towels. Season the cavity generously with salt and pepper and stuff with a small bunch of fresh thyme. Place in a roasting pan and surround with sliced carrots and onion. Roast at 400°F for about an hour and ten minutes.
While the duck is roasting, start the base for the sauce. Boil three tablespoons of sugar in the red wine vinegar over medium-high heat for several minutes (stirring often), until it caramelizes and and becomes thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and add in 1/2 cup of stock. Simmer, stirring, for about one minute until the stock is absorbed. In a small bowl, mix together the arrowroot powder or cornstarch with three tablespoons of Madeira or Port. Add the rest of the stock to the sauce, along with the arrowroot or cornstarch mixture. Simmer for a few more minutes, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Place peach quarters in a shallow dish and coat well with lemon juice and two tablespoons each of sugar and Grand Marnier.
When the duck has finished roasting, it should be medium to medium-rare with pinkish flesh, and slightly rosy juices. Avoid over-cooking! Remove the duck to a serving dish and place in the still-hot (turned off) oven with the door slightly ajar.
Remove as much fat as possible from the roasting pan, which will be most of the liquids (save this for cooking frites or potatoes later) and add 1/2 cup of Madeira or Port to the pan. Boil the liquid down quickly, for several minutes, until it has been reduced to three or four tablespoons. Combine this reduction with the sauce base and bring to a simmer. If you want the sauce to be very smooth, use a sieve to strain the reduction first. Add two tablespoons of Grand Marnier and all of the peach slices. Place a lid on the pot and simmer until the peaches are soft, about seven to ten minutes, then remove to a separate dish. Just before serving, add two tablespoons of butter to the sauce and stir to combine.
Carve the duck legs and wings, and the breasts very thinly off the bird. Serve with the braised peaches, sauce and mashed potatoes and turnips. Enjoy!
Adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.