Sunday, 10 June 2012

Recipe: Pan-fried Duck with Pea and Pea Shoot Risotto

There are a lot of things that I've not cooked before. Some of them I'm too lazy to attempt (anything that involves starting it the day before), some of them I'm too stingy to mess up (lobster, truffles) and some of them I'd love to, but I've never got round to it (mussels). I have, however, ticked another thing off my list - I have cooked duck. Mr F and I treat ourselves to nice meat from the Stockbridge Farmers Market every now and then, and although I've been a bit scared of cooking the duck and left it in the freezer for a couple of weeks, I am now a convert.

We debated what to have the duck with. I had a flick through my alarming number of cookbooks, but couldn't find anything that we fancied. Although I'd usually go straight to an Asian recipe and get the 5 spice out, I wanted to get this right, and actually taste the lovely meat. In my mind, I had an image of it nestled on top of a pile of risotto, but I couldn't find a suggestion I fancied online, so I did the geeky thing and tweeted Nigel Slater. His reply? "maybe think about a classic risotto with masses of peas and peashoots in. Duck is always happy with peas". He was right, it was good.

Pan-fried Duck Breast with Pea and Pea Shoot Risotto
Serves 2

2 skin-on duck breasts (preferably free-range)
150g Risotto rice
1 leek, sliced into rings
25g butter
500ml hot chicken stock
150g peas
50g pea shoots
50g parmesan, finely grated

Firstly, prep your duck breast. On the skin side, cut through the fat with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern. Make sure you only cut through the fat, not the meat underneath. Pop the butter, and leek into a saucepan. Cook gently until the leeks start to soften and turn translucent, then add the rice. Stir through and toast the rice for a minute before adding a small amount of the chicken stock. Continue to add the stock, stirring regularly, and adding more as needed.
While the risotto is simmering away fairly comfortably, in a large skillet (if you have one), or in a large frying pan, place the two duck breasts skin side down, and cook on a meduim heat. You don't need to add oil - so much fat will come out of the duck that you'll have to spoon it out to stop it spitting and burning the sides of the duck (if you're feeling frugal, or can't bear the thought of throwing it out, stick it in a ramekin and use it to cook roast potatoes in). Cook gently for 10 minutes or so, until the skin has started crisping up - use tongs or a fish slice to check it's not burning. Turn them over when they're nice and crispy. Cook for a further 4 minutes (although this will depend on how thick the meat is, and how rare you like it. We went for pink, which was 4 minutes, but we did have to push it down a wee bit with the tongs every now and then to make sure it was cooking evenly). Turn it back onto the skin side and poke it, to make sure it's cooked. Do the thumb muscle test - you want it ideally middle finger to ring finger bouncy.
Take it out of the pan, and rest it on a wooden board until the risotto is cooked - this should be about 5 minutes. When the risotto is cooked to your liking, stir in the pea shoots and allow to wilt slightly - a bit of texture to the stalks is nice though. Mix through the cheese, reserving a little for a sprinkle on top, and add a good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
Serve as you wish - to keep the duck skin really crispy, it's probably best served on the side, but it does look pretty nestling amongst the green risotto!

Further ideas:
* To make a vegetarian risotto, use a veggie parmesan-style cheese and vegetable stock.
* This would be a great base for pan-fried fish, using a fish stock instead - a sustainable white fish with a crispy skin would be great.
* If you're feeling frugal but fancy the idea of having it with fish, smoked salmon trimmings or smoked mackerel are both very cheap, and are both delicious flaked with this risotto towards the end.

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