This Portuguese duck risotto elevates classic creamy risotto with the addition of duck, ham, sausage, and orange zest.

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

How to make flavorful duck risotto

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 than 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 | Arroz de Pato

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



Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the duck legs well with salt and pepper. Place the duck legs in the skillet, 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). Set the skillet aside.

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.

Meanwhile, sauté the chouriço in the reserved skillet over medium heat until the fat is render, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chouriço to paper towels to drain.

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-size pieces. Spoon the fat from the top of the stock and add the remaining stock to the pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and keep it bubbling gently.

Heat the oven to warm (about 160°F [70°C]) Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.

Using a razor-sharp knife, score the skin of the breast in a crosshatch pattern, being mindful not to cut into the flesh. Pat it dry and season with salt and pepper. Wipe out the skillet and place it 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.

Drain all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. 

Add the rice, stir 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.

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, and 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. 

Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the orange juice and butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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. Originally published October 11, 2010.

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