Around December, so much focus gets put on edible gifts and Christmas cookies that it can be easy to forget about the star of the holiday meal. If you want to impress without going through too much trouble, don't discount duck breast: it has all the exotic cachet of a game bird, without any of the fuss.
Regardless of how little you know about duck, you can't go wrong with its à l'orange preparation; the acidity of a sweet-tart orange glaze cuts through the fowl's robust flavor. Go all out by reducing the orange juice and segmenting fresh oranges to serve alongside the roast; otherwise, a pre-made glaze like orange marmalade does the trick. Make either version when you keep reading.
1 tablespoon butter Serves 2. 1/4 cup sugar Makes 4 servings.
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or walnuts
1 cup rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 small bunch asparagus, trimmed to 4 inches and sliced 1/2 inch thick on an angle
3 scallions, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
2 duck breasts
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
4 large oranges
2 1-pound boneless Muscovy duck breast halves, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup sugar
Makes 4 servings.