Duck is one of my favorite proteins and risotto is one of my favorite overall dishes, so I figure why not make a dish that uses both. This saffron risotto with duck breast looks impressive, but is seriously easy. I decided to kick it up a notch and use a good amount of saffron to really make this an impressive dish. Making risotto isn’t difficult at all, and my collection of delicious risotto recipes show you just how much variation there can be.
The main things you will need for this recipe is arborio rice (or any specific strain of risotto rice you prefer), a duck breast, and saffron. Unlike my mushroom risotto or quail risotto you have some leeway here with the stock. The other ingredients can be substituted or left out if you prefer. However using my tips and tricks that I apply to all my risotto recipes is sure to impress all your guests.
How To Make The Duck Breast For The Saffron Risotto
This recipe, like many of my duck breast recipes, has a little bit of technique, but overall it’s quite simple. Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius. Start with a cold pan and place the breasts (salted on both sides) skin side down. Turn the heat on the lowest setting and slowly raise it while letting the fat render out. The fat will run clear, and when you see a decent amount check the skin to see how it is browning. If it is golden brown, flip the duck and cook for another 30 seconds. Place the duck back skin side down and pop in the oven for 6 minutes. I usually start the duck breast about 5 minutes after I start the risotto so they finish close together.
If you want more instruction with step by step pictures, my guide How To Cook Duck Breast will answer basically any question you will have.
Remove the pan from the oven and place the duck breast on a cutting board to rest. Cover with a sheet of foil if you finish the breast while the saffron risotto is still being cooked. When the rice is done you will thinly slice the breast skin side down and lay atop the dish. Using this method you can make duck for a variety of recipes, like my duck breast with plum sauce or my duck with Vietnamese style noodles.
How To Make Saffron Risotto
In a large flat bottomed pan add a bit of olive oil and on medium high heat add the rice. Get the rice nice and toasty and then pour in half a cup of dry vermouth or other fortified wine. As soon as you add the alcohol, add in one finely diced shallot. Stir the pan until the liquid is almost completely gone. Then start adding duck stock (or chicken stock if you can’t get duck, or vegetable stock if you prefer) a quarter cup at a time to the pan stirring the entire time. After your second quarter cup, sprinkle in a pinch of saffron and stir it around. Remember, saffron is expensive but a little goes a long way. If you can’t find saffron at your local grocer you can buy saffron online here.
This is similar to my saffron risotto with shrimp recipe, just using a different protein of course!
Slowly keep adding the duck stock as it reduces while stirring the whole time. A figure eight movement with the wooden spoon is perfect for making risotto. If you notice the pan getting too hot then add more liquid at one time instead of a quarter cup. A quick note, if your duck stock is unsalted you may want to thrown in a pinch as the risotto cooks. However you should also know that the cheese added is salty so don’t add too much.
When you are on your last quarter cup of duck stock turn off the heat. Add two tablespoons of butter (or 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp of the rendered duck fat from the pan) along with a quarter cup of grated Pecorino Romano.
The final saffron risotto should be rich and creamy with a gorgeous yellow color. Because the heat is off the rice will not dry out at the end, which a lot of people seem to have trouble with. Just plate in a shallow bowl and lay the thinly sliced duck breast on top.
Saffron risotto is considered as possibly the original risotto flavor, so even without the duck breast it is a great dish to learn on. In fact, in my perfect risotto guide I did a risotto ai funghi, but saffron would most likely be more true to history!
Saffron Risotto With Duck Breast
- Oven-proof pan
- Wide bottom pan
- Wooden Spoon
- 2 Duck Breasts
- 1 cup Rice arborio or other risotto rice
- 1 pinch Saffron a little goes a long way, 15-20 strands is more than enough.
- 1 large Shallot finely diced
- 1/2 cup Vermouth or other fortified wine
- 6 cups Duck Stock Chicken Stock is also acceptable
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano grated, to taste
- 2 tbsp Butter can sub 1 tbsp for a tbsp of rendered duck fat from the pan.
- Salt to season the breasts, and the risotto if not using seasoned stock
- Black Pepper optional, freshly cracked
- Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius
- In the large pan add a bit of oil and turn onto medium high heat. Add the rice and toast for a minute, then turn up the heat and add the vermouth and shallot. Stir until the alcohol is almost completely gone. Then start adding duck stock a quarter cup at a time while stirring. After the second quarter cup of stock sprinkle in the saffron.
- While the rice is being cooked you can start on the duck breasts. Take your meat and sprinkle generously with salt on both sides. Place the breasts skin side down in a cold pan. Turn the heat on the lowest setting and then slowly raise it to max over about 10 minutes.
- When the duck skin is golden brown, flip the breast to cook the other side for about 30 seconds, then pop the whole pan in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove, and place the breasts on a cutting board while finishing up the rice. Cover with a sheet of foil if needed to keep warm.
- When you add the last quarter cup of stock to the rice turn off the heat. Add the butter and cheese and stir until the final dish is rich and creamy. Place evenly into four shallow bowls. Thinly slice your duck breast skin side down (it's easier this way) and add half a breast to each dish. Serve, and enjoy!