George Mendes’ Arroz de Pato, or Duck Paella with Chorizo, Apricots and Olives

We’ve been on a duck jag lately, but I wanted to try something a little different. I came across a recipe for Rice with Duck and Apricots while flipping through Food & Wine, and realized it was a take on the arroz de pato dish I’d eaten at Aldea last December. Food & Wine, though, had simplified the recipe quite a bit. I rather preferred making the dish in a paella pan, as they have it over in the recipe here: George Mendes’ Arroz de Pato from Fork in the Road, the Village Voice food blog. So I sort of combined the two. I came up with this:

Earlier in the day, I first made the Candied Olives. Then I set about making the apricot puree.

Take dried apricots and reduce some wine with them:

Add some sherry vinegar:

Blend. It is supposed to be a puree, but that is as smooth as it would get:

The next part of the recipe calls for making a sofrito. Sofrito is like the mirepoix of Spanish and Latin cuisine; it’s the trinity of ingredients that form the flavor base for many recipes: garlic, onion and tomato. In this case, we’re also adding pimenton and saffron to the sofrito.

Cook down a while —

— and then add rice. Stir and toast it a while:

And then add broth.

You’re not going to cook the rice all the way, so you don’t add all the broth. I’ll indicate in the recipe below.

While the rice cooks, you can get the rest of the ingredients ready.

The recipes were calling for chorizo, but they didn’t specify what kind. There’s the wetter kind, but when I cut it, it really fell apart, like this:

And then there’s the drier kind, which really sliced up nicely, but I thought would be too dry for the dish.

I was really confused. But finally, I got a sharper, more delicate knife and gave the wetter chorizo another shot:

Ah ha! Now that helps! So the wetter kind of chorizo is the answer.

The other thing you need for the dish is duck confit.

You can make it if, you start like two weeks ahead. (Sour Cherry Farm’s duck confit recipe can be found right here.) Or just buy some duck confit legs from D’Artagnan. As you can see, you need to pull all the meat off.

Now you take your par-cooked rice and spread it in the bottom of a paella pan.

Top with chorizo —

— and olives —

— and duck confit:

Give it all a nice stir:

Add the rest of the broth. Ready for the oven:

Now here’s an optional part. You can also top with duck breast. If you’re going to do this, you want to cook it before you cook the paella.

It can rest while the paella cooks:

You can open some wine while the paella cooks.

Yum. Did you know that the nice crispy brown part that sticks to the pan is called the socarrat?

Now, if you’re using the duck breast, cut it on the bias and put it in the center of the pan. Spread the apricots all around:

Do NOT, as I did, place a candied olive garnish in the center. The olive flavor was too overpowering. It was off balance. A shame, really, because I so wanted that candied flavor, and thought it would go well on this dish.

So here are your options with this dish.

You can do as the Food & Wine recipe suggests, and cook it all in a big pot. This is best if you want easiest, but you won’t get a nice socarrat and you won’t be able to wow your guests by placing a large paella pan on the table.

Or you can do as I’ve tried and make the recipe the chef way, pureeing apricots, cooking duck breast, and the whole nine.

What I think I will do next time is this: Cook the dish with chopped apricots (a la Food & Wine), but use the par-cook method and make the dish in a paella pan. And next time, I’ll make sure not to over-olive.

Here’s my take on it:

Arroz de Pato
Adapted from George Mendes, Fork in the Road and Food&Wine.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of saffron threads
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (pimenton)
1 cup aborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (or duck stock made from demi-glace, if available), divided use
2 duck confit legs, skinned and meat coarsely shredded
1/4 cup thinly sliced chorizo (the wetter kind)
1/4 cup sliced and pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup diced apricots, soaked in water or wine for 20 minutes.
Salt and pepper
1 boneless duck breast (optional)

Heat the olive oli over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and garlic. Saute until golden. Add saffron. Toast for 2 minutes. Add tomato. Cook until the moisture is gone, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add sweet paprika and toast for 30 seconds or so.

Add rice and toast, stirring constantly. Add 1 1/2 cups of the stock. (You will add the remaining cup before the paella goes in the oven.) Cook about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring.

Spread the rice onto the bottom of a paella pan. This can be done up to a day ahead. Cover the pan and refrigerate if you are making it ahead.

Add the duck confit, chorizo, olives and apricots. Toss well and spread the rice mixture in an even layer over the bottom of the paella pan. Pour the remaining cup of stock onto the rice and swirl the pan or press down so it distributes evenly over the rice.

Preheat the oven to 375.

If using the duck breasts, score the skin so the fat renders in the pan and the skin will get nice and crisp. Heat a cast iron or other heavy pan over medium-high heat until a bead of water dances on the surface. Place duck, skin side down, onto the pan and sear, 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the breast over and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes until it is medium rare to medium. Transfer to a cutting board and cover with foil while the paella cooks.

Place the paella pan in the oven and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the rice is crisped around the edges and a soccarat has formed on the bottom of the pan. Remove from oven and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes before serving.

If serving with duck breasts, slice them on the bais and fan them over the paella.

Place the pan at the center of the table and let guests serve themselves.

Serves 4 to 6.

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