Back to risotto. I made it successfully--I might even say perfectly--on my first attempt. This seriously impressed Joe which has led to many batches of risotto, because, well, there are few things I can nail on my first try so it seems like something I should whip out as often as possible.
Yesterday in celebration of fall I decided to pair risotto with my favorite bird and try my hand at duck breasts. Turns out I'm not a one trick pony folks. I'm also really good at frying up some duck.
I just thought you should know.
(While the breasts were frying I called Joe over to the stove multiple times to to come see and smell the progress. I didn't know the site of fat bubbling could ever make a girl so happy.)
*If you correctly guess the movie you get 10 points. Which are equivalent to one Shrute Buck or seven Stanley Nickels.
Because I don't want this to turn into a recipe blog, but I feel like sharing, read on if you're interested:
3 Tbs butter, divided
1/3 Cup diced onion or shallot
3ish 15-oz cans of chicken broth or stock (I know there's a difference between the two, but I don't think it matters)
1 1/2 Cups arborio rice (Israeli couscous also works)
3 Tbs dry white wine**
Salt and Pepper
In a sauce pan bring chicken broth to a boil, then reduce to low skimmer.
Melt 2 Tbs butter in saute pan over medium high heat, add shallot and saute 3-5 minutes (or until clear).
Add grain to shallots and brown for another 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add wine and stir until liquid is almost gone.
Pour in 1/2 cup of broth and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid is almost gone (1-2 minutes).
Continue adding broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring often. Do not let the grain dry out!
Do this until grain is soft, but still has a bite. It usually takes me 25 minutes overall. Remove from heat. (When put on a plate, risotto should spread out a little, but should not be soupy.)
Add salt, pepper, remaining butter, and Parmesan cheese.
I like to add mild fresh herbs at the very end, this time it was sorrel, which we couldn't even taste. I recommend parsley.
Another favorite add-in to risotto is caramelized pear. While risotto is cooking throw one pear, chopped, in a frying pan with a little oil and sugar. Cook until soft, sweet, and a little sticky. Add to risotto with the butter and cheese.
Joe likes when I add a tablespoon of squid ink to the risotto or Israeli couscous at the end as well.
2 duck breasts
3 Plums, pits removed and roughly chopped
1 Tb white wine
1 Cup hot chicken broth (there should be enough left over from your risotto)
Preheat your oven to 400.
Score the skin of the duck breasts into a checkerboard pattern, each square 1" or less.
Rub both sides of breasts with seasonings and spices. (Anne Burrell suggests that the average home cook should double the amount of salt in their cooking, I've taken her advice to heart (because she's Anne Burrell) and it has greatly improved my cooking.)
Place duck, skin side down, in a hot-hot pan with a small amount of olive oil. Sear on skin side for 7-8 minutes, or until skin is very brown, like the color of something really dark brown. If you're only at caramel color, keep going even though you think it looks delicious just how it is--it will just be flabby and you want crispy.
As the breasts are frying spoon the melted fat onto the side facing up, because that's how the French do it.
Flip the breasts and stick them in the preheated oven for 6 minutes for a medium-rare. Cooking duck over medium rare is just disappointing. I was almost fooled when I pulled the breasts out as they looked a little bloody, but once they rest on a cutting board for 5 or 6 minutes, all the blood and juices seep back into the meat. Cut on the diagonal.
For the Sauce:
While the duck is resting pour all but 1 Tbs of the leftover grease into a jar to save for another day (to fry potatoes in). In the same pan as the remaining oil add the wine, chopped up plums, chicken broth and some salt. I also threw in some kind of forest mushrooms we had leftover in the fridge (which is why I send Joe grocery shopping, he buys things like duck and forest mushrooms). Let this all cook down for a few minutes on high heat. Add a Tbs of butter and some lime zest at the end. Lick your fingers.
**Because I don't drink alcohol and only occasionally cook with it, when I buy a bottle of wine I freeze it in ice cube trays and once they are frozen put into a ziplock baggie and keep in the freezer. The cubes don't actually hold their shape that well so they're more wine slush, but it still serves the purpose of having cooking wine on hand without having to keep a bottle in the fridge (I just assume opened wine goes bad, or at least starts tasting like fridge).