Make George Mendes' Arroz de Pato
In weather such as this, there are few cravings as strong as those for carbs and meat. The Arroz de Pato (duck rice) is the most popular dish at Aldea, the restaurant George Mendes opened last summer as an ode to Iberian cooking. Preparing the dish is no quick task, but the results are well worth the effort.
"I think the Arroz de Pato has become a popular menu item because it's a homey rice dish that has a lot going on as far as textures and flavors," says Mendes of his star entree. "There's the soft-chewy duck confit, the smoky-hot chorizo, the salty olives, the crunchy duck skin, and the sweetness from the apricot puree. It also has the reference point of being a classical Portuguese peasant dish, which I reinterpreted for Aldea."
Arroz de Pato
For the Arroz (rice):
8 oz. Calaspara rice 1.5 oz. sofrito (recipe to follow) 2.5 cups duck stock salt, to taste fresh white pepper, to taste 1/4 cup olive oil
Over medium-low heat, place the sofrito in a heavy-bottomed rondeau, and add the olive oil. Add the rice and toast, constantly stirring with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add 12 ounces of the stock and mix well. Let the rice cook, stirring to avoid sticking for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the rice from the pan, and spread it onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. (Pre-cooking the rice can be done ahead of time, but the rice can also be finished at this point: add the the rest of the stock, as well as the seasoning.)
For the sofrito:
1/4 diced onion 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tomato, peeled and diced 1 tbsp. pimenton pinch saffron threads 2 tbsp. olive oil
In a skillet over medium-low heat, sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil until just slightly golden brown. Add the saffron threads, and cook 2 minutes more. Then, add the diced tomato and cook over medium heat until all the moisture is gone. Add the pimenton, and set aside.
2 duck legs 1/2 onion peeled, sliced 1 carrot, peeled and sliced 1 rib celery, sliced 3 garlic cloves, sliced 3 cups duck fat 1 tbsp. white peppercorn 1 tbsp. coriander 2 star anise 1/4 bunch thyme 1 bay leaf rosemary, to taste kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Season the duck legs with salt and pepper on both sides, then sear in 1 tablespoon of the duck fat until golden brown on both sides. Remove the legs from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and cook until tender. In a cheesecloth sachet, combine the coriander, white peppercorn, star anise, and herbs, and toss in.
Continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the duck fat, melt, then transfer the mixture to an oven-proof casserole dish. Cover with aluminum foil, and cook for 6-8 hours, until the duck meat falls off the bone. When cool enough to handle, pull the duck meat off the bone, and discard the bones, looking out for loose cartilage.
For the apricot puree:
1/2 cup dried apricots 1/4 cup white wine 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
In medium-size saucepan, combine the apricots with the white wine, and cook over medium-high heat until the wine is reduced by half. Add the sherry vinegar, then puree at high speed until smooth.
2 skinless duck breasts 1 tbsp. duck fat 1/4 cup sliced chorizo 2 tbsp. pitted and sliced black olives duck skin from the 2 breasts, crisped in oven
Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Vacuum pack with the duck fat, and cook in a water bath at 65 degrees C for 20 minutes.
In large paella pan, spread the rice along the bottom in even layer. Add the duck confit, chorizo, olives, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and flatten out again. (If you prepared your rice ahead of time, add the rest of the stock now.) In an oven preheated to 375 degrees F, cook for 7 minutes until the rice is crisped around the edges and a "soccarat" has formed on the bottom of pan. Remove from the oven, and let rest for 5 minutes covered with aluminum foil.
Dish out equal portions of rice onto plates, and garnish with the sliced duck breast, crisped up skin, and the apricot puree. Alternatively, place the entire pan of rice at center of the table with garnishes on top, and let guests serve themselves.
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