Braised Duck Thigh in a Savory Citrus Pancake

Braised Duck Thigh in a Savory Citrus Pancake

Okay, I'll be the first to admit this recipe is pretty time consuming and highly involving, but I intended to prove that with a little bit of creativity and know how, that anyone can make a delicious dish out of scrap pieces of meat or produce. The story goes like this, I had just broken down a whole duck and used every part of the animal except for the thighs. How often have you seen duck thighs for sale at the supermarket? Exactly, I wanted to put this meat to use despite there not being much. So i devised this dish in order to be a fun interpretation on a French classic.

French haute cuisine also known as high cuisine is often considered the epitome and backbone of Western cooking. This style of cuisine was popularized throughout the west in the mid 20th century but has it's modern roots at the end of the 18th century. Right after the French revolution, chef's like Grimod de La Reyniere and Jean-Anthelme Billat-Savarin, who were trained in per-revolution France, wanted to bring the traditions of French haute cusine and mix them with the values of the new ruling class.(Freedman, 265-266) Pre-revolution France was a time where great opulence in the form of outrageous feasts were held by a small portion of the ultra wealthy. The rich known for their greed were overthrown, and the result was a shocking event to the evolution of French cuisine. Post-revolution France experienced haute traditions being incorporated into the greater population, Brillat-Savarin said, "We have begun to separate gourmandise from gluttony and greed; it has come to be regarded as a penchant that one can enjoy... gourmets are placed alongside all others who have a particular object of predilection"(Freedman).

Duck A'lroange which is simply roasted duck with an orange sauce is a classical French dish by way of Florence, Italy (Young). The dish became popular throughout Europe and the U.S. after World War II, particularly gaining popularity in the 1960's in the U.S. (Anderson, 136). My recipe diverges from tradition, instead of roasting the duck, I braised it in a dutch oven. The braising process does not give the duck the same crispy skin as roasting would, but I was able to achieve a similar maillard reaction also known as the browning effect, while slowly cooking the thighs in the duck's own stock. The result is a tender and rich meat.

I wanted to serve this in a crepe, but slightly thicker. The batter I created is technically a pancake, but is not so similar to a flapjack. The savory pancake in this recipe is more like a denser crepe.

The orange based sauce that is drizzled on at the end is known as a coulis. While fruit and vegetables coulis are now common, this was not always the case. Coulis was originally the basis of all brown sauces in French cuisine. Various meats would be soaked in court bullion to create a rich meaty sauce. (Peterson 12) Thankfully, this coulis is acidic and sweet, which provides a nice contrast for the savory pancake and braised duck.

I always suggest buying a whole duck, chicken, turkey, etc and using all parts of the animal. I believe this to be a more thoughtful and respectful practice than relying on a supermarkets pre-cut meat options. Instead of paying a premium for convience, why not utalize the breasts, leg quarters, and wings for seperate meals, save the back and wingtips for a stock, and rendering the fat to use as a delicious replacement for cooking oils. Try to remind yourself that the animal you are consuming was once a living and breathing life form, their sacrifice should not go to waste.

Pancake Cookin'

Braised Duck Thigh in a Savory Citrus Pancake w/ Orange Coulis

Duck Stock Braised Duck Thighs

  • 1 pound Duck thighs, trimmed and boned
  • 1/2 Red onion, small diced
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 2-3 c Duck stock (chicken stock may be substituted)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 T Fresh parsley, chopped
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. Heat 2 T of duck fat or vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat on the stove top. Small dice ½ a red onion and 4 cloves of garlic, add to the Dutch oven. Cook until onions and garlic become translucent or approximately 3-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer onions and garlic into a separate container and deglaze Dutch oven with duck stock. Deglaze by scraping all the brown bits on the bottom of the Dutch oven with a wooden spoon after introducing the stock. Once deglazed, transfer the duck stock back into the bowl containing onions and garlic and reserve.
  4. Remove the skin of two duck thighs and reserve in a separate container. De-bone the two thighbones and cartilage in each thigh. At this point, it is fine if the meat is not looking pretty or even intact.
  5. Add 2 T of Duck Fat or vegetable oil to the Dutch oven and turn the heat on high.
  6. Pat dry the skinless duck thighs with a paper towel. Add kosher salt and black pepper to the duck thighs and throw them in the hot Dutch oven. Make sure to brown all sides.
  7. Remove the thighs and place on a plate once the thighs are thoroughly browned on the outside. Dump the duck stock, onion, and garlic mixture back into the Dutch oven and scrape off all the brown bits like before. Transfer the thighs back into the Dutch oven with the stock mixture. Add a dry bay leaf and fresh parsley to Dutch oven. Place a tight fitting lid over the Dutch oven and place in a middle rack of the oven for 90 minutes.
  8. Now start preparing the pancake batter.
  9. When braise is complete, remove the lid of the Dutch oven before cooking off the pancakes.

Savory Citrus Pancake

  • 1/2 c Duck stock (chicken stock may be substituted)
  • 1/2 c Whole milk
  • 1 c Eggs
  • 1 c All-purpose flour
  • 1 t Sugar
  • 1/4 t Lime zest
  • 1/2 t Lemon zest
  • a pinch of Kosher salt
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine 1/2 C duck stock and 1/2 C whole milk in one container.
  2. In a large metal bowl whisk 1 C eggs and 1 C flour together. Add the duck stock milk mixture slowly and continue to whisk.
  3. Add 3/4 t combined zest, 1 t sugar, and pinch of salt into the mixture. Continue to whisk.
  4. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and let rest in the refrigerator until you are ready to plate the dish or at least 1 hour.
  5. Put a stick-less pan over medium heat with 1-2 t of duck fat or cooking oil of your choice.
  6. Right before serving, spoon pancake batter over the pan on medium high heat. The pancake should be as thin as possible. Cook both sides until perfectly golden with brown spots.

Orange Coulis

  • 1 c Orange juice
  • 2 T Orange zest
  • 4 T Sugar
  • 1/2 t Kosher salt
  • 1 T Unsalted butter
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine orange juice, zest, and sugar in a small pot. Turn heat on medium high until the mixture gently boils down and reduces to a syrup-like consistency. Try to have the syrup coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. Take the syrup off the stove and whisk in 1 T of butter.

Crispy Duck Cracklin' Crumbs

  • Reserved Duck thigh or other duck skin
Cooking Directions
  1. Cut the reserved duck skin into several smaller pieces, thus they render and fry faster.
  2. Put all the skin into a small cast iron pan over medium low heat and render the fat out. The byproduct will be leftover duck fat, which can be saved for later.
  3. Once all the skin is golden brown remove to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.
  4. Transfer the skin to a cutting board and chop into bits, which will be sprinkled over the final dish
Total Time: 2 hours

Citations and Further Readings:
  • Anderson, Jean. The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century. New York: Clarkson Potter, 1997. 136. Print.
  • Freedman, Paul, ed. Food: The History of Taste. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007. 265-66. Print.
  • Peterson, James. Sauce: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making. 2ndnd ed. N.p.: John Wiley and Sons, 1998. 12. Print.
  • Young, Elizabeth. "Duck all'arancia: The Florentine origins of a French classic." The Florentine 22 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>.
Photo's by Jordan Henline


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