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Portuguese Duck Risotto

Arroz de pato, or duck with rice, is a specialty of the Minho region. Traditionally it’s made by first boiling and then roasting duck to cook it to tenderness and make a rich stock, then later roasting the shredded meat along with rice. But I find this technique often leaves the bird flavorless and dry. Plus, it takes an entire day of waiting to chill the stock and then degrease it. This cheaters’ version of the dish is inspired by a risotto made by my friend, chef Vitor Veloso. It calls for braising the legs in chicken stock, then shredding the meat and stirring it into a creamy risotto made with the de rigueur ingredients, including presunto (cured ham), chouriço (spicy sausage), and orange zest. Adorning the top are slices of perfectly seared duck breast. Much faster, infinitely easier, and far more sophisticated.–David Leite

LC David Gets His Ducks in a Row Note

[Editor's Note: This LC Note brought to you by David Leite himself.] Risotto has a potential to send people shrieking into the hills. And for what? It’s really a cinch to make a great pot of risotto. All you need is patience and a lot of broth. I’ve made this risotto more times that I can count. But a few weeks ago, I was rushed and I did the unthinkable–I resorted to a bargain brand of canned chicken broth and I bought some duck on sale. Needless to say, the dish had nary a hint of flavor. Properly chastened, I made it again shortly thereafter, but this time I returned to my old duck standby, D’Artagnan, which I’d used previously. Then I made a duck stock out of some excellent chicken stock along with D’Artagnan’s Duck and Veal Demi-Glace and two of their moulard legs and a magret half-breast. This time, the risotto was as I’d remembered: sensational. I don’t often mention brand names, as it feels like a commercial, but considering how much better the dish was, I believe it’s my duty. I also believe D’Artagnan is well worth the price. Carry on.

Portuguese Duck Risotto Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • 2 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 duck legs (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 to 8 cups homemade chicken stock, or store-bought low-sodium broth
  • 3 ounces chouriço, linguiça, or dried-cured smoked Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • One 16-ounce boneless moulard duck breast half
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 2 cups Portuguese Carolino or Italian Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 1/4-inch thick slice presunto, Serrano ham, or prosciutto, excess fat removed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons grated orange zest, preferably organic,, to taste

Directions

  • 1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the duck legs well with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot, add the duck legs, skin-side down and sear until lightly browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the legs to a medium pot off the heat. Drain the fat from the skillet (and by all means, reserve this liquid gold for another use) and set the skillet aside.
  • 2. Add enough of the stock to the pot to cover the duck, bring to a simmer, and cook, covered, over low heat untl the meat is tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • 3. Meanwhile, sauté the chouriço in the reserved skillet over medium heat until the fat is render, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to to paper towels to drain.
  • 4. Remove the duck legs from the pot and transfer to a plate. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the skin, pull the meat from the bones, and shred into bite-sized pieces. Set aside. Spoon the fat from the top of the stock, and add the remaining stock into the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and keep it bubbling gently.
  • 5. Heat the oven to warm (about 160°F [70°C]), and slip in a cooling rack set on a baking sheet.
  • 6. With a razor-sharp knife, score the skin of the breast in a crosshatch pattern, being mindful not to cut into the flesh. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Add the breast, skin side down and sear until crisp, allowing the fat to render slowly, 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t rush this–the last thing you want is a mouthful of chewy fat. Flip and sear the other side for 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the duck to the rack in the oven to keep warm. While in the oven, the breast should reach medium-rare, about 135°F (57°C) on an instant read thermometer.
  • 7. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice to coat, and cook until translucent around the edges, about 2 minutes. Splash in the wine and continue cooking until it’s absorbed. Add a ladleful of hot stock and cook, stirring continuously, until the liquid has almost burbled away. Keep up this rhythm of adding stock, stirring, and cooking for 15 minutes, then stir in the presunto and chouriço.
  • 8. Add the shredded duck to the risotto and resume the ladling, stirring, and cooking until the rice moves wave-like when mounded, is ultra-creamy and tender, but offers just the slightest bit of resistance in the middle, 5 to 10 minutes more. A classic risotto has a loose consistency, meaning if you wobble the pot or bowl, the risotto will slump and spread. At least, that’s what results when the liquid has been added patiently and properly. Stir in the orange juice and butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 9. To serve the duck risotto recipe, slice the duck breast crosswise into thin slices. Divide the risotto among warm shallow bowls (simply run them under hot, hot water and dry them quickly or, if ovenproof, warm them in a low oven) and arrange the slices of breast on top. Sprinkle with the parsley and orange zest. Rush to the table.
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