A few months ago, thanks to the incredible generosity of Stefan van Sprang, the chef/ co-owner of two Michelin star restaurant Aan de Poel, I got my hands on a sous vide. Not any sous vide, mind, but a Sous Vide Supreme, a piece of equipment that is worth around 600 euros in The Netherlands. I know Stefan for a few years. He is one of my favorite Dutch chefs and his restaurant is among my favorite places to eat in the world. At the end of a dinner, we were chatting casually with Stefan and I mentioned I would love to have a sous vide but I wasn’t sure if it’d be for me and I was discouraged by the price (it’s not the kind of equipment you buy to try and, if you do not like it, you just toss it aside). Stefan, cool man that he is, said “you can borrow mine”. So, that day I walked from his restaurant with a Sous Vide Supreme and I have been using it ever since. As an aside, I will have to return it (sooner rather than later) so, if you are reading this, Stefan: my immense gratitude to you for being such a generous and overall top human being and yes, I haven’t forgotten that I have your sous vide. I just have been having so much fun using it!
There are plenty of recipes for sous vide cooking on the internet. There are entire sites devoted to improving one’s technique even. Sous vide gained popularity with the publication of books like Modernist Cuisine at Home and the development of immersion circulators like the Anova or Nomiku. In The Netherlands, the best food blog for anyone trying to learn or improve their sous vide cooking is Stefan’s Gourmet Blog (coincidentally, another Stefan).
This recipe for duck a l’orange used Stefan’s guidelines for cooking times and temperature but I developed my own recipe since I was trying to infuse the duck legs with extra orange and herbs flavor while keeping the skin intact. The result was a tender and juicy bird, full of citrusy flavors, with a crispy, crackling skin. I cannot help it, I just live for that skin.
What you’ll need
- 2 Duck legs
- 2 tbsp duck fat
- 1 small carrot in chunks
- 2 oranges
- 1 shallot in chunks
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Spring of rosemary
- 1 spring of thyme
- 2 cups of water
Zest the two oranges reserving them to finish the duck with the juice later (keep them in the fridge so that they do not dry out). Combine the carrot, zest, shallot, garlic cloves, rosemary and thyme in a medium sauce pan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat letting the broth simmer until it is reduced to approximately half the volume (1 cup of liquid). I made this in the pressure cooker and used only 1 cup of water to account for the fact that in the pressure cooker there is no evaporation.
I let it boil at high pressure for 60 minutes and then let the pressure come down naturally (you do not want to lose those precious aromatics by releasing the pressure manually). Pass the broth through a fine sieve and let it cool completely.
Season the duck legs with salt and pepper. Add the duck, broth and two tablespoons of duck fat to your preferred cooking bag.
I use Foodsaver so I place the broth in the bag and freeze it for a couple of hours to prevent it from overflowing when vacuum sealing the bag.
Since this is a long cook, I would strongly advise double bagging to prevent potential leaks (ask me about the duck confit “accident” I had one of the first times I cooked with the sous vide).
Cook the legs at 64.5C/148F for 24 hours.
Once the 24 hours are up, remove the legs from the pouch reserving all the cooking liquid. Pat them dry. Let the cooking liquid come to room temperature and remove the fat that floats on top. In the meantime, juice the two oranges.
Heat a skillet and add the duck fat. Brown the legs on the fat at high temperature on both sides. You want to get the skin very crispy and for that you’ll need the high temperature.
It shouldn’t take more than one minute or so per side. Remove the legs from the skillet and set aside.
Pour the cooking liquid and orange juice in the skillet and lower the temperature to medium-low to let it simmer.
Reduce to half scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula (you want those brown bits of goodness in the sauce). Once the liquid has reduced, lower the temperature to minimum and return the legs to the skillet. Baste them in the sauce for a few seconds.
Serve with a generous spoonful or two of the sauce on top.