For the longest time I admired photos of blood oranges, without being able to find any around.  Now that they are available on a regular basis, I am a happy camper, bringing a few home with me whenever I spot them at the grocery store.  What I love about blood oranges the most is their mysterious nature: you never know how red they will be inside.  The skin tries to give you a hint, but… it can be very deceiving.  For this particular recipe from Donna Hay, I needed a fairly large amount of their juice, so I went to work on my oranges, each with their unique shade of red. Gorgeous!

I had a few problems with the recipe, explaining why the “work in progress”. To start with, the orange juice must be reduced by boiling (together with orange marmalade, sugar and vinegar), for what Donna says it will be 12 to 15 minutes, until thickened. Since you must brush the skin of the duck with the resulting sauce, trust me: 15 minutes simply doesn’t do the trick. It took me over 35 minutes, and I had to watch the pan like a hawk, because it boiled over quite quickly.

In preparation for roasting, the duck’s skin is pricked with a skewer, and the bird is dropped in boiling water for 10 seconds. Think carefully about the whole strategy, because you will be placing a reasonably large piece of meat in boiling water, and removing it 10 short seconds later. The duck will have a very high tendency to slide. Boiling water. Slippery bird.  Not a good match.  Be prepared. Once that part is taken care of, you’ll brush its surface with the blood orange reduction sauce, placing it over a rack on a baking dish protected with foil, as you see here.

My next problem with the instructions was the roasting temperature and time.  According to the recipe, roast at 350 F for about 1 hour, then cover the duck with foil and roast for a further 20 to 30 minutes.  The photo in her book is a mouth-watering masterpiece of golden brown crispy skin. Not sure how she would get there in those conditions, I had to increase the temperature and cook my duck a lot longer, even though my duck was almost exactly the weight she recommends in her recipe.  In the end, the meat was not very flavorful, and definitely not tender the way I would like it to be.

The best part of the meal was the side dish I chose to go with it: shredded Napa cabbage, very simply dressed with lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, prepared 15 minutes before serving. Very refreshing, perfect to cut through the fatty duck.

So, it’s back to the drawing board on this one. I liked the flavor of the sauce, and feel that the recipe has the potential to be a winner. Knowing myself, though, I know it will take me a while to try it again. If anyone has suggestions, advice, tried and true methods, please post them in the comments or send them to me by email. I am all ears!


TWO YEARS AGO: Memories of Pasteis (one of my favorite blog posts…)

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  1. I would think the glaze would burn on the duck if you brushed it on at the beginning because of all the sugar. I’d probably do the baking under the foil and then remove the foil and bake, basting at this point. That’s all I can think of.


  2. Oh Sally, some recipes can be a challenge for sure as I recall my days making Peking duck, in and out of boiling honey water several times, hanging and fan drying in-between dips. I had a Chinese friend coaching me the first time and we created a hanging device over a pot for the process. I recall that we roasted in at 350° oven and the duck was set on a rack over a pan of water…still quite a smokey situation. DH doesn’t like duck so I no longer make duck anything and I miss making duck recipes using far superior kitchen equipment than I had in the early 70’s in a tiny kitchen. You are not alone in posting questionable recipes as I have had some not so great results and moments. I think that I would rather make a blood orange sauce and use duck using duck parts rather than a whole duck.


    • Oh, my… you made Peking duck, one of my favorite dishes of all times, but I would never try it at home, I don’t think… I heard too many horror stories about bike pumps and stuff 😉


  3. How sad that this wasn’t a winner! I love blood orange juice and definitely agree that this has potential…now how to execute it. THAT is the question…


  4. I love flipping through Donna Hay cookbooks – she’s a brilliant stylist and artist at heart (although perhaps her instructions could use some tweaking ;-)). I agree, blood oranges do hold the mysteries of the earth within their lovely interiors 😉 and I’m always struck by their beauty in recipes. The colour on the skin of this bird is just gorgeous Sally – lots of potential here for sure…and your Napa cabbage sounds delish. Looking forward to round II :).


  5. I like the idea of a blood-orange sauce for duck, Sally, and as Kelly mentioned, the color you got on the skin is wonderful. When you were reducing your sauce, did you use a wide, shallow pan? That will speed evaporation (better than a sauce pan). Can’t help you with the duck — I eat duck, but I have never cooked one at home. I would say read as much as you can about duck cookery from a wide variety of sources, including chefs you know you can trust — have a look at Mark Bittman, for example.


    • I could have used a wider and shallower pan, and would definitely do that next time, but my pan was not too deep and narrow. I just didn’t expect it to take so much more time that 15 minutes…


  6. Well the skin on your duck looks gorgeous. But doesn’t that frustrate you with recipes? The thing that gets me the most is the cooking time – nearly double the time you expect can really throw things off. As for cooking duck, we always roast it. I’ve never tried to dip it in boiling water. I have no doubt I would have burned myself!


    • I didn’t burn myself, but you would not like to be around the kitchen during my maneauvering the duck… (I did burn myself last weekend, hot oil on that very thin and delicate skin under the arm – chicken stir fry for fajitas…. )


  7. It looks like it turned out.. if not, I know you will get lots of advice here from some experts.. I’ve never made duck and liked yours! I couldn’t picture myself plucking that duck out of boiling water though!! Blood oranges are so cool.. I haven’t figured out if the ones with more coloring on the outside peel have the darker coloring inside??


    • They fooled me more than once – beautiful red pigments all over the skin, hiding a mostly orangey flesh… 😉 and vice versa, nice surprise of a bright red fruit, hiding under a normal looking orange


  8. I love the use of the blood oranges to make a wonderful sauce/marinade for a roast duck but this recipe does sound treacherous! I cannot imagine how I would get a duck in and out of boiling water in 15 seconds without either dropping the bird or scolding myself. Your side dish looks and sounds amazing. I’ll be very weary if trying this recipe – thanks for the warning!


    • I am not the best person to do complicated stuff in the kitchen, even if I try to get a Zen attitude about it. The boiling water and duck will not be attempted again. that I can say for sure!


  9. Would it be heresy to suggest pouring a kettle or two of boiling water over in and around the duck safely on a rack in the sink, given that the whole process is 10 seconds in duration? Years ago I hung a duck between two chairs and basted it for two days with that concentrated apple juice syrup and some spices and dried it with a hair dryer till it developed a burnished skin. My flatmate wasn’t amused so I never did it again, but I vaguely remember it worked and the skin crisped up beautifully without burning. I can’t remember the details well enough though. Good luck with the blood orange sauce, I like my oranges with thinly sliced fennel as a salad 🙂


    • I think it’s actually a very good idea, Joanna!

      now, I laughed quite hard imagining the expression on your flatmate’s face: a duck hanging between two chairs, treated with a hair dryer! PRICELESS!!!!!


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