Five stars here, orange soda, orange zest, orange juice, orange marmalade, and orange liqueur, are joined by apricots to deepen the flavor, while lemon juice adds a piquant touch. Try to use a homemade chicken broth or at very least a low-sodium canned broth.
Step 1: Put the orange soda, chicken stock, orange zest and juice, and cinnamon stick in a heavy saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil, and let boil for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the apricots. Let soak for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
Step 2: Transfer the apricots and their soaking liquid to a blender. Add the marmalade, brown sugar, vinegar, and lemon juice and purée until smooth. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a saucepan, forcing the fruit pulp through the strainer with a spatula (don’t forget to scrape the strained pulp off the bottom of the strainer).
Step 3: Return the sauce to the saucepan and let simmer for 3 minutes over medium-high heat. Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange liqueur and stir this into the sauce. Let simmer for 2 minutes longer; the sauce will thicken slightly. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter. Add salt, pepper, and additional brown sugar or vinegar to taste. The sauce can be served warm or at room temperature. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 5 days. Let return to room temperature or reheat over medium heat.
When I was in cooking school in Paris in the 1970s, duckling à l’orange was the highest test of a chef’s mettle. The duck had to be roasted just so-skin crackling crisp, meat tender and juicy-and the orange sauce had to strike a perfect balance between the sweetness of the caramelized sugar, the acidity of the fresh orange juice, and the bitterness of the orange peel and marmalade.