Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SPRING HIATUS!! Duck with Apple & Mushroom Risotto

Hi all! As you gathered from the title, we are going on a brief hiatus. The reason? First, our house is being re-piped, which has essentially demolished my kitchen. Second, I am busy helping our daughter and future son-in-law plan their wedding (Hurray!!!!). Don't worry....we will be back soon. :-) 
For comments, please post below or email to cookingwithlarue@gmail.com

Duck with Apple & Mushroom Risotto 
Serves 6-8 
Difficulty: Gourmet
Duck with Apple & Mushroom Risotto 
This is an elegant risotto featuring sweet apples, salty bacon, wild mushrooms, duck and creamy Arborio rice.  It is truly a meal in one dish – elegant for guests or for that special night for two. The food blogosphere has been full of spring risotto recipes for weeks now: risotto with ramps, risotto with peas, and risotto with asparagus. And they all sound delicious. However, it appears that spring has not sprung everywhere and much of the country is still under the last vestiges of winter. While spring peas and asparagus may not have shown at your neighborhood market, produce boxes have steadily included apples. Apples that retain a touch of firmness are best here, such as Baldwin, Greening apples, Granny Smith, Pippin and Northern spy. If it is a thick-skinned variety, you might peel it.  You can do this recipe without the mushrooms, the duck or the bacon, and its still very good. However, I love the layered flavorful mix. I think you will too!

Risotto, ready for this great meal!

Risotto rice absorbs the delectable flavors of the apples, as well as the wild mushrooms, sage and chicken stock. If you watch any cooking shows, such as Top Chef, Food Network Star, Iron Chef, etc. you know that risotto is considered to be a fancy, gourmet dish. If you know how to make risotto, you can be proud of your cooking skills and if you do not know how to make risotto, this is a good time to learn!

The fixins' for the risotto
I used to wondered what the risotto hype was all about and then after I tried it, I knew that it has earned its reputation. The good news is that it’s surprisingly easy to make. Who would have known? This seemingly simple rice dish is so luxurious and creamy, it tastes like it was cooked with tons of butter and cream. However, you’ll be pleased to find out that there’s no butter and no cream whatsoever. Risotto is cooked with short grain rice, Arborio or carnaroli rice, which has lots of starch coating each rice kernel, and that starch will give the rice the creamy texture that it needs. Long grain rice will not work.
  • ¼ lb sliced bacon
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tb canola oil
  • 2 large (1-pound) duck breasts
  • 4 C fresh wild mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 C Arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 C dry cider (“hard cider” – dry, not sweet – usually located near beers); open early in day to release all the carbonated bubbles
  • 6 C good quality chicken stock
  • 2 large apples, cored and diced
  • 15 fresh sage leaves, minced, plus whole sprigs for garnish
  • Optional: Cider syrup (boil down preservative free apple cider to a glaze)
In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Set aside. 

For step-by-step instructions on how to prepare, season and cook a duck breast – see Duck Salad with Port-Currant Sauce ( http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2015/03/duck-salad-with-port-currant-sauce.html) or Duck Breasts with Honey & Balsamic (http://cookingwithlarue.blogspot.com/2012/04/duck-breasts-with-honey-balsamic.html).

After preparing the duck, heat non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat. Add 1-2 Tb canola oil. Set a metal bowl or other container near the stove. With a paper towel, blot any moisture from the duck breasts. Season both sides of each breast with a pinch of salt. Add the duck to the pan, skin-side-down. Move the duck breasts every few minutes to help them brown evenly.  As the fat is rendered, carefully tilt pan remove the excess with a metal spoon (leaving about <1/8-inch) from the frying pan: Be careful to remove pan from the flame while doing so to avoid flare-up. Transfer fat to metal bowl. Cook the duck for a total of 20-25 minutes, until the skin is an even rich brown and very crisp. You may need to press the meat down to the pan so skin remains flat.
Remove the excess fat with a spoon
Turn breasts over and cook on the other side about 5 minutes (at this point, you could put into a 400 degree F oven for 5 minutes). The internal temperature should be 125-degree F for rosy medium-rare perfect duck breast! Move the duck breasts to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven. Leave a bit of the duck fat in the skillet.
What the duck should look like...medium rare
Add mushrooms and onions to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice to the skillet, stirring, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the rice is completely coated in the duck fat and is translucent. Cooking the rice in the fat will coat each kernel and prevent them from absorbing the liquid too quickly and becoming soggy. Add the dry cider and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has been evaporated, about 8 minutes.
Saute the mushrooms and onions
Meanwhile, pour the chicken stock into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat to low and keep the stock on the stove, at a low simmer. It’s very important to use hot stock in risotto, so it stays hot when you’re adding it to the rice. If you add cold stock, the rice will not cook evenly, and the rice will be hard on the inside. 

Pour ½ C chicken stock into rice and cook, stirring, until liquid has almost entirely evaporated. Repeat with another ½ Cup. Add apples and minced sage. Keep ladling in about a half cup of the hot broth into the rice, and then adding another half cup of broth as soon as most of the broth is absorbed into the rice. Stir the risotto frequently. Keep cooking the risotto on medium heat until it is creamy and the rice is soft but still has a slightly chewy texture. It should take about 25-30 minutes, but it could be more; you just have to keep an eye on it and keep tasting the rice to check for doneness. You might not need to use all of the broth. Off heat, taste and adjust seasoning.
Risotto absorbing the great flavors (and liquid)
Remove duck from oven and cut breasts against the grain into ½-inch-thick slices.  Serve risotto in a wide, shallow bowl with a fan of duck slices on the side and bacon crumbled over top. Garnish with a sage sprig and drizzle with cider syrup, if using.

Sit back, take in the accolades, and enjoy a truly fabulous, elegant meal!


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