You Probably Know It As Orange Sauce
Most likely you’ve heard of the dish duck a l’orange and some time in your life you may even have ordered it at one of your favorite restaurants. The duck a l’orange that became popular in this country back in the 60’s is nothing like the classic canard a l’orange prepared in the nineteenth century.
Many of recipes you find in modern American cookbooks and on the Internet use chicken stock, sugar and vinegar to create an overly sweet and sour version of the classic French sauce. Both sugar and vinegar were used to prepare a “gastric” in classic sweet and sour sauces and why you see them in many of the more modern versions of this sauce.
Renowned 18th century French Chef Antonin Careme’s version of this recipe calls for espagnole sauce, an important ingredient for preparing demi glace. Chef Careme prepared his bigarade sauce by reducing the zest and juices of bigarade (bitter) oranges, adding espagnole sauce and freshly cracked pepper. This would be reduced down and then be strained through a fine chinois (strainer). Our sauce will be similar but with a few additional ingredients.
Because espagnole sauce is an extremely time consuming task for home cooks and commercial restaurant quality demi glace is now available, we will use demi glace in this version.
Bigarade Sauce History
I’m not sure who came up with bigarade sauce first but I know it goes back to the early 1800’s because Chef Marie-Antoine Careme wrote about it in L’Art de la Cuisine Francaise. The sauce was originally made with extremely sour Seville oranges and when combined with caramelized sugar, you ended up with a the classic sweet and sour taste this sauce is know for.
The name bigarade comes from the French term for these bitter oranges but you may find them difficult to locate in your local supermarkets. The best known bitter orange varieties are Seville, Bouquet de Fleurs and Chinotto. I’ve read you can substitute 1 part lime or lemon juice + 2 parts orange juice to mimic the flavor of bitter orange juice.
Bigarade sauce is traditionally served with duck because the bitterness of the sour oranges cuts through the fatty taste associated with duck meat.