I first heard the word “Bigarade” while watching MasterChef. A competing amateur chef, who ended up winning, prepared a beautiful crispy-skinned duck breast with a cherry bigarade.
I had to check Wikipedia, and this is what I found: Bigarade, which is French for “bitter orange,” is a classic French brown sauce flavored with oranges and served with duck. Bigarade sauce combines beef stock, duck drippings, orange and lemon juice, blanched orange peel, and if desired, curaçao. The original French recipe used bitter Seville oranges.
The recipe I used is from Hank Shaw, on Epicurious. Here’s what he wrote:
“This is a modern rendition of a nineteenth-century recipe that ultimately became the legendary canard a l’orange, though it bears little resemblance to the gloppy 1960’s version of duck a l’orange served in this country. This is much lighter and just a little bitter. The sauce was originally made with sour Seville oranges, and if you can find them, by all means use them. Citrus and waterfowl are a perfect pair, and they both happen to be in season at the same time. Any skin-on duck breasts will work with this recipe, but I prefer Muscovy or large wild duck breasts. Serve this dish with roasted or mashed potatoes, polenta, or a wild rice pilaf. A soft white wine is a good choice here, such as a Viognier, a Roussanne, or an oaky Chardonnay.”
The recipe is in Hank Shaw’s cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose: Recipes and Techniques for Cooking Duck and Geese, both Wild and Domesticated.
by Hank Shaw
1 1/2 to 2 pounds duck breasts
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup Basic Duck Stock or chicken stock
Juice of 1 orange, preferably Seville (1/2 cup)
1 shot glass Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, optional
1 tablespoon cider vinegar or sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 sweet orange, quartered and thinly sliced
Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator, salt them well, and set them aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Pan sear the duck breasts. You may have to do this in batches. When the breasts are cooked, set them aside skin side up on a cutting board and let them rest, tented with aluminum foil, while you make the sauce.
To make the sauce, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan and place the pan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir to combine and make a roux. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until it is the color of coffee with cream.
Add a pinch of salt and stir to combine, then slowly stir in the stock, orange juice, liqueur, and vinegar. Everything will spatter at first, but it will calm down. Add any accumulated juices from the duck to the sauce. Let this boil down until it is a little thinner than the consistency of Thanksgiving gravy. Add the sugar, then taste and adjust with salt. If you want a more refined sauce, pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
To serve, slice the breasts.
Spoon some sauce on each plate and top with breast slices.
Garnish with the orange zest and orange slices.
The sauce was perfect – slightly bitter, plus smooth and flavorful.
Very nicely done. I do love duck breast and this recipe looks outstanding
Thanks, Charlie! I was really happy to discover it!
So juicy and tender…the duck breast is perfectly done, Mimi.
A beautiful dish Mimi! Thanks for the Bigarade information too! Duck is one of my deviations from our mostly plant and fish based diet, and we serve it every Christmas and on our anniversary. Love your presentation as well, and I can see how tender this must have been.
Ohhhh that’s really lovely. This would be a wonderful holiday dish. Cranberry sauce or compote would be good with it as well!
Interesting! I wasn’t familiar with a Bigarade until this post…thanks for sharing, Mimi. A sauce really can take a recipe from good to great, and this one sounds really flavorful!
Flavorful but a little different. I’d want it a little thicker, but it was good!
I love duck breast! This looks wonderful, and the sauce sounds perfect. Thanks!
The sauce was so tasty! I’ve never used duck stock before, but glad I could find it. A really nice meal.
Sauces are always welcome on my plate . I love duck breast and this sauce will take it to another level .
As I mentioned somewhere, I will make the sauce thicker when I make this again, but it was definitely favorful!
Wonderful sauce (and everything else), Mimi! I discovered Hank Shaw maybe 15 years ago through his blog and was very fascinated by the amount of knowledge he had not only of hunting, fishing and foraging, but especially of cooking. A well rounded gentleman :-)
His blog is wonderful and I’ve used it as a resource quite a few times. He’s definitely knowledgeable. I don’t own his books because where I live I do no fishing, plus I don’t shoot guns. I think it would be fascinating to go foraging with him!
Mimi, this looks like the perfect special occasion dish. I think of duck as the best meat to celebrate with, and this dish has so many beautiful flavours to compliment the duck. Always great to learn a new cooking word isn’t it. Fabulous story, thanks.
There is always something new to learn! that’s why I love cookbooks, blogs, and other wonderful resources we have at our fingertips these days!
Gorgeous dish, Mimi! I love all your pretty details, right down to the grilled orange halves. Just beautiful. :)
Thanks so much terrie! It was really a delightful dish.
What a beautiful sauce! You do find the most elegant recipes, Mimi. I think this calls for a special occasion. :-)
It could definitely be a holiday meal.
i’d never heard of bigarade before but it sounds good. I do like a bitter orange, and it would pair so well with duck which can be so fatty. Yum!
It really was a nice combination!
A very nice rendition of canard à l’orange, although I prefer the sauce a bit thicker. For medium rare and tender duck, you could finish it sous vide. After searing both sides (skin side longer than meat side, keeping the inside as raw as possible), allow to cool before vacuum sealing. Then cook sous vide for 2 hours at 135. Your cuisson does look nicely uniform, which shows you did a great job in the pan (but it’s more like medium well and I prefer medium rare).
It really wasn’t medium. Some photos show a much pinker flesh. I don’t know why but I’ve always had a hard time with photographing rare/medium rare meat. I’ve even sent some photos in the past to Stephane, who’s a whiz at Lightroom, to help me enhance the flesh to look like they’re supposed to look. It’s very strange. I don’t eat anything cooked more than medium rare, believe me. Regarding the sous vide I just wanted to follow the recipe in this care.
I have heard of sauce Bigarade before, but never made it. Oranges are in season here so that should be a good reason to do so :)
It’s really very good. I wish I could make it with Seville oranges!
Duck is one of our Christmas favourites! Keeping this version to surprise my mother ! :-) Thank you so much !
Oh, it would be lovely on Christmas!!!
The sauce sounds luscious and the duck looks perfectly cooked. It’s such an elegant and delicious looking meal!
When I made it I didn’t think of it as anything special, like for a holiday dinner, but it certainly can be!
Were you able to find a Seville orange? I’ve never seen one. Regardless, what a stunning combination. I love bitter orange, and I bet it goes great with the duck. (On a side note, it’s so hard for me to see the word “bigarade” and not read it as “brigade!”)
I could have tried to order a Seville orange online, if they were in season, but I thought that a bit much. The vinegar really does the trick for the bitterness. I’d also put the zest in the sauce. Sprinkling it on top was odd. As far as the name, it’s okay to call it duck brigade!!!
Your family and friends must love your dinner parties. Always a new dish served. Your duck turned out perfectly and that sauce looks and sounds wonderful.
Aww, thank you. I have many fewer parties now, of course, but I do love them. Especially if everybody enjoys the food!
Wow that is a perfectly cooked duck! really nice recipe
Thank you! It was excellent.