Make Ahead

Duck Meatballs à L’Orange

April 27, 2015
2 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Duck meatballs are a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, they are more fun than a whole roasted bird. Duck meatballs are a blank canvas for endless kitchen imagination: duck meatballs with scallions and red currant jelly; in port wine sauce; Peking duck meatballs with Szechuan peppercorn and other Asian-inspired spices; duck meatballs à l’orange. Remember duck à l’orange? The bourgeois dish from the 60s that embodied French food for all mankind outside France for a long time and has now disappeared from the menus in most French restaurants. Even in New York City—the kingdom of everything, where one can find practically anything in the world—you have to scout, and I mean like really, really scout to find a plate of canard à l'orange. Which is too bad, because it is a mighty good dish. And a mighty good inspiration for a plate of duck meatballs. —QueenSashy

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: QueenSashy is a James Beard Award-winning blogger (and scientist!) who lives in New York.
WHAT: The classic duck à l'orange, reimagined as meatballs.
HOW: Make spiced meatballs out of duck breast and bake; meanwhile, stir together the signature orangey sauce.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Just like in the the old-school, whole-bird version, orange and duck sing together. The sauce (thick, tangy, and sweet) and meatballs (caramelized on the outside, spicy and gamey on the inside) pair perfectly, and the duck meat holds up well to the spices it's seasoned with—and the strong, thick sauce.
—The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the meatballs:
  • About 1 pound, 6 ounces raw duck breast and dark meat (i.e. the meat from one duck)
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 cup minced scallions
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup duck or chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • A couple slices orange peel, pith removed
  1. Grind the duck meat coarsely or chop by hand (you want the consistency of sausage meat). Set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the meatball mixture.
  2. Make the meatball mixture: In a small sauté pan set over medium heat, heat the sunflower oil. Add the garlic, coriander, and cumin and cook for about 2 minutes, until garlic and spices become fragrant. Add the scallions and allow to sweat until the scallion begins to soften. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, breadcrumbs, thyme, and cooled scallion mixture. Set aside.
  3. Combine the breadcrumb mixture with the duck meat. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands. Leave the mixture in the fridge for about 1 hour or 2 (or in the freezer for about 20 minutes) to firm up.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F convection (375° F regular bake). Lightly oil a rimmed baking pan. Roll the meat mixture in your hands into golfball-sized meatballs and space them out evenly onto the baking pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. (Do not over-bake, as the meatballs will become dry.)
  5. While the meatballs are in the oven, begin to make the sauce. Place the sugar in a small, dry saucepan over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until sugar melts into a deep golden caramel. Add the orange juice, vinegar, and salt. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble vigorously. Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel is completely dissolved. Remove syrup from the heat.
  6. Remove the meatballs from the oven, then remove them from the pan and set them aside in a medium bowl. Pour the wine and broth into the pan to deglaze. Pour the pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. You should have about 2/3 cup of liquid.
  7. In a small bowl, stir together the butter and flour to form a beurre manié (a soft dough that is equal parts butter and flour). Use your fingers or fork to form a smooth paste. Divide the paste into several small balls. Over medium-low heat, bring the pan juices to a simmer and slowly add the balls of beurre manié, one ball at time, while whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Add the orange syrup and zest and continue to simmer, whisking occasionally, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and, with a fork or tweezers, take the orange peel slices out. (Keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.)
  8. Serve the meatballs with the sauce on the side.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • anka
  • anotherfoodieblogger
  • ieatthepeach
  • QueenSashy
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.

10 Reviews

Patricia G. June 5, 2019
Having a pound of ground bison meat available, I looked for an adaptable meatball recipe. This suited beautifully, and baking the meatballs seems to have helped avoid dryness. I had a problem with the sauce. I cooked the sugar as directed. When I poured in the orange juice and vinegar, the sugar bubbled up and immediately became hard. It wasn't possible to stir, because it was truly rock hard. I had allowed the sugar to sit before adding the orange juice mixture, so blamed this. I tried again, with the same result. I had substituted a fruit vinegar. Could this have been the culprit?
Nancy April 30, 2017
What other meat would work here? I love duck so much but I can't readily get it here. Yes, I get that this is DUCK l'Orange re imagined so nothing really subs here, but it sounds so good I hope I can re-re imagine this. Lamb? Oh sad! I'm embarrassed to post this!!
QueenSashy April 30, 2017
Oh not at all... Chicken (brown meat) and turkey also work great (and you can sub about one third of the meat with finely chopped bacon). They will be wonderful.
Nancy April 30, 2017
Thank you so much! I will continue to source a place to get the duck but in the meantime I will do this with the turkey.
gingershelley May 3, 2016
Thank you queensashy!
This looks super yum. Excited to bone out the deck and make the sauce with its caramel syrup. Cool.?
gingershelley May 2, 2016
Are the breadcrumb fresh or dried in the meatballs? Want to make, but choosing the right kind would probably be the difference between dryballs or sogballs... help!
QueenSashy May 2, 2016
anka March 12, 2016
Congratulations! I can't wait to try them.
anotherfoodieblogger March 11, 2016
Huge congratulations on making it to the finals! I can see why you are so proud of this dish, it sounds delicious!
ieatthepeach March 11, 2016
This looks SO GOOD. I'd never have thought to make duck meatballs, but this is going right to the top of my to-make list. :) Congrats!