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 The sauce was originally made with sour Seville oranges, and if you can find them, by all means use them.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.