Week 8, Meal 2: Risotto with duck confit, butternut squash apple and Parmesan

Oh, risotto — I love you, I hate you.

I couldn’t feel my arm for about an hour after making Week 8, Meal 2: Risotto with duck confit, butternut squash apple and Parmesan, but it was so creamy, so flavorful and so worth every maddening second in the kitchen.

The Recipe (Yield: 2 servings)

1 T olive oil
1 shallot, small diced
3/4 cup arborio rice
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced (dime-sized)
1 cup medium diced butternut squash (dime-sized)
1 leg of duck confit, skin and fat removed
3 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 big handful of arugula
salt and pepper, to taste

The biggest thing that immediately popped out to me in this recipe was the duck confit. Chef Brian said I would be able to find prepared duck legs confit at a market like Henry’s or Whole Foods, but I had no luck. I did find duck legs at Whole Foods though, and decided to do the confit on my own. (Note: I doubled the recipe, so that’s why I have two).

I did a little research and found that true confit — cooking the duck meat in its own fat (for flavor and preservation) — can be a days-long process if done in the traditional manner. But, with the power of the Internet,  I found a quick confit that was easy to follow. NOTE: Try doing the confit the day before, if you’re pressed for time.

Start by piercing the thick layer of fat over the legs multiple times. You should go deep into the fat, but try not to puncture the meat. Next, use a heavy hand and salt the duck. Leave it sitting out in a cool place for about an hour (don’t worry, it will be fine) so the salt pulls the moisture from the skin.

After the hour is up, put 1 t of olive oil in a shallow dish that is just big enough to hold the legs. Put the dish in the oven without preheating and set to 300 degrees. Bake for 90 min., then turn up the heat to 375 degrees for 15 minutes.

The skin should be super crispy and the fat should have fully rendered out of the meat and the skin.

Once the meat cools a little, use a fork to shred it.

Now, let’s make us some risotto!

Let’s get our prep out of the way. Dice 1 granny smith apple.

Dice 1 cup of butternut squash. The smaller, the better for the squash so it cooks evenly with the rest of the ingredients.

And dice 1 shallot.

In a medium sauce pot, heat 2 1/4 cups of chicken stock to a boil.

While you’re bringing the stock to a boil, in a large sauce pot, heat 1 T of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and apple and cook 30 seconds.

Add 3/4 cup of arborio rice and reduce heat to medium. Stir rice constantly for 3-4 min. You’re basically trying to toast the rice, as well as beat the starch out of it. If it starts to turn brown, turn down the heat a little.

Add 1/3 of the chicken stock to the rice and bring it up to a boil, stirring constantly. Here’s where the real work begins.

When the risotto starts to absorb all the liquid and get creamy, add butternut squash and another 1/3 of the chicken stock and continue to stir. The liquid will get sucked up and it will get creamier still.

Arm tired yet? Mine was, and that was with Wifey Nadia alternating between helpful stirring and screaming “Don’t burn the risotto!” multiple times in her best Gordon Ramsay impression.

When most of the liquid is gone, add the remaining 1/3 of the stock and keep stirring until the rice is creamy, light and fluffy.

You’ll know it’s done when the rice and squash are tender. If it  has bite to it, add a little more stock until it is fully cooked, but don’t stop stirring as much as you can help it!

Add the duck meat and 3 T of Parmesan cheese. Stir until the meat has come to temperature and the cheese has melted into the risotto. Salt and pepper to taste.

To plate: Put 1 1/2 cups of risotto in a shallow bowl and top with arugula!

The only thing left to do is dig in. This is a super-hearty, stick-to-your-ribs type dish that is perfect for cold winter days. The apple, while a background player, is best at enhancing the duck and the butternut squash, and the peppery arugula is what really cuts thorough all the natural creaminess.

And all that, without butter, milk or heavy cream! Amazing!

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