Delicious and elegant roast duck, basted and stuffed with crimson colored blood oranges and fresh sage, and served with a citrus-sage and Lillet reduction sauce.  An easy-to-follow roast duck recipe – and a super delicious way to say goodbye to summer and hello to beautiful fall.

Roast duck with blood orange Lillet sauce |

When you think of roast duck, especially with a fruity and bright citrus-sage sauce like we have here, think of a year-round recipe.  Rather, dream about roast duck all year-round. We do!

Ducks are eternally available – duck with grilled fruit is insanely delicious – and if you consider the fact that at least a few varieties of oranges are available all year round, duck with some kind of orange sauce deserves a place at your table.

Your only issue might be would you agree to a hot oven during late summer months?  For hot or cold roast duck, no problem!  And do you crave a sweet citrus sauce poured over top of said duck?  And throw in a glass of Lillet over ice?

Yes, please!

Blood oranges, either imported from Sicily or from groves in California or Texas are widely available these days.  Officially, the season for Moro, Tarocco and Sanguinello blood oranges starts roughly in December and January, depending upon the variety, and runs through the cold weather months.  However, it’s September now and I’ve been seeing blood oranges for the last few weeks.

Roast duck with blood orange Lillet sauce |
Roast duck with blood orange Lillet sauce |

A good tasting orange sauce for duck contains citrus flavors, a defined sweetness, and without a doubt, a mellow acidity.  Sherry vinegar is our go-to vinegar these days, but for this roast duck we went with something a new to our acidity repertoire, cider vinegar.  Thanks, J. Pepin.

For sure there is a certain amount of sweetness and acidity in fresh squeezed blood orange juice, but cider vinegar gives the sauce a little extra pop.

Now if we had planned ahead, we’d have also used duck stock for the sauce rather than chicken.  I have a sense that since duck stock is not all that readily available for most, there must be flexibility on this point.

In any case, the base chicken stock used here was homemade – which almost always makes a world of difference – and the reduction sauce turned out excellent.  We’re usually trying to figure out how to save the rendered fat from the ducks in our custody and so the carcasses get thrown out after being picked.

Not this time.  Carcass saved, frozen, and a fine stock is imminent.  Perhaps a blog post?

Roast duck with blood orange Lillet sauce |

It’s safe to say roast ducks, apart from looking and tasting elegant, are fairly easy to prepare and are self-basting so they need little babysitting once they go into the oven.

Poke tiny holds in the skin to allow melted fat to escape, rub them down with a little salt and pepper, and roast on a rack for 2 hours or less.  Wham.  Bam.  Couldn’t be simpler.

When it comes to overly dry meat, we think there’s also less stress with regards to duck than say the fear of dry chicken or the almost inevitably dry turkey.  Duck, with it’s thick layers of exterior fat, just doesn’t work that way.

In truth, there a few extra steps you can take to crisp up the breast skin and at the same time create a flavorful reduction sauce that goes perfectly with your duck.  For this recipe, we just happened to use blood oranges, but you could easily use pomegranates, cherries, peaches – maybe even pichuberries; those would be fun to try.

Whole Duck |
Roast Duck with Blood Orange-Lillet Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 3
  • 1 5-6 lbs young duck
  • 2-3 blood oranges
  • ⅓ cup Lillet
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
Blood Orange-Lillet Sauce
  • duck giblets and neck
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • ⅔ cup Lillet
  • 8 sage leaves chopped
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • cracked pepper
  • ⅓ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 blood oranges
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F \ 190°C.
  2. Remove giblets and neck from cavity of duck and temporarily place in refrigerator. Also remove any large fatty tissues that may be inside.
  3. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. We will be carefully pouring this boiling water over our duck before it goes into the oven. This will help crisp up the skin.
  4. Meanwhile, rinse duck, both inside and out, and pat dry with paper towel. Tilt duck to drain any water inside cavity.
  5. With duck resting breast side up, fold wing tips up and around over breast and secure them under the ducks back. With the wings folded back in this way, the duck sits more squarely on a platter.
  6. Tuck loose skin and fat around neck inside neck opening. Season inside of cavity with salt and pepper.
  7. Cut one unpeeled blood orange into sections and stuff inside cavity along with a handful of fresh sage leaves.
  8. Bend duck tail up and stuff inside cavity. You will probably have to exert a little pressure.
  9. Using a 12-inch piece of butcher string, loosely tie legs together. When duck roasts, the legs tend to splay out in a rather unladylike fashion.
  10. Using a very sharp knife slice a crosshatch pattern in breast fat cap. Be careful to not cut into the meat. This is where a very sharp knife comes in handy. Using a skewer or two-pronged fork, poke holes into fat layer on legs and sides of duck. All of this cutting and poking creates places for rendered duck fat to escape during roasting.
  11. Place duck breast side up into roasting rack and set rack in sink. Carefully pour boiling water over duck and allow to cool for a minute or two. Tilt duck to drain cavity.
  12. Set rack with duck into roasting pan. Pour ⅓ cup Lillet over duck and season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup water to bottom of roasting pan. Water will help the roasting pan juices from burning and smoking.
  13. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove duck, squeeze juice from 1 blood orange over duck breast and turn duck so that breast side is down. Continue roasting for another 30 minutes.
  14. Again turn duck so that breast side is up, squeeze juice from another blood orange over duck, and return to over to roast for another 45 minutes.
  15. Make reduction sauce: Meanwhile, over medium heat add oil to large 2-quart sauce pan. Brown chopped duck giblets and neck cut into several pieces for 10 minutes until well browned.
  16. Add roughly chopped carrots, celery, onion, tomato, smashed garlic clove and saute in oil and duck fat until tender, about 5 minutes.
  17. Add Lillet to pan to deglaze, scraping up the fond.
  18. Add chicken (or duck) stock, bay leaves, chopped sage leaves, and bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Sprinkle in flour very slowly to thicken, stirring between the addition of each tablespoon. Continue simmering for 45 minutes.
  19. In a smaller sauce pan, heat cider vinegar and sugar over medium-low heat and cook until sugar is dissolved, for about 5 minutes.
  20. Remove from heat and strain solids from broth, returning broth back to sauce pan. Add vinegar and sugar mixture to broth. Taste for seasons and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary. Squeeze in juice from 3 blood oranges and add to sauce. Continue cooking sauce until thickened and reduces by a third. Skim fat from top.
  21. Final steps: Our duck will be done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F \ 75°C.
  22. Allow duck to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.
  23. Serve sliced duck with heated reduction sauce.
Basting isn't essential with roasted duck, but a little Lillet and fresh squeezed blood orange juice gives duck skin beautiful color and delicious flavor.