Arroz de pato, Portuguese duck rice, is a simple, comforting and hearty dish combining duck and rice cooked in a deeply flavorful stock. It may take a little time but it's easy to prepare so well worth the effort. A delicious main dish that pairs with a range of simple sides.
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I visited Portugal a number of times when I was growing up but my food memories are mainly seafood. I imagine that's partly because we mainly visited coastal areas in the North or Mediterranean. It was only when I have been in Lisbon more recently that we enjoyed some of the more hearty dishes that are more typical of the interior regions.
Lisbon, as with many capitals, has a broader mix of cuisines, including from different areas of Portugal. This delightful duck dish was one I was immediately drawn to in a Lisbon restaurant and we all loved it. It's simple yet flavorful and great for all sorts of occasions.
Where is arroz de pato from?
"Arroz de pato" translates as "duck rice" from Portuguese. It's worth noting that it's very similar to the Spanish "arroz con pato" (rice with duck) which is a popular dish in Peru. It's made a little differently, using beer and herbs that make the rice green. Here, however, I am referring to the Portuguese dish.
Portuguese duck rice is from the town of Braga in Northern Portugal, though these days you will find it across the country. As well as the duck and rice in the name, the dish incorporates other classic Portuguese ingredients including chouriço (Portuguese-style sausage), bay leaves, garlic and wine.
Rice in Portugal
While you may not think of rice as a Portuguese ingredient, it has actually been cultivated and enjoyed there for centuries. It's generally believed that the Moors introduced rice to Europe through the Iberian Peninsula.
Some of the earliest written records of rice production in Portugal date to the 18th century, but many believe it has been grown in the region since the 8th century. The modern Portuguese rice production is concentrated in the Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) river region just inland from Lisbon. But earlier it was probably more in the South.
These days, rice is such a part of the cuisine of both Spain and Portugal that you'll find it both as a side and as the base to popular dishes like Spanish paella and Portuguese seafood rice. Both countries also have rice varieties that are primarily grown just in that region.
The most popular rice variety in Portugal is carolino rice which is a round, short grain rice similar to arborio. You use it when you want a creamier texture such as rice pudding or tomato rice. You'll also find agulha, a long grain rice, which is more popular as a side and for dishes like this.
Steps to make duck rice
This is a relatively easy dish to make, but it does have a few steps. That said, you can prepare some of the steps ahead, and some parts are hands off. So don't be put off! As with most traditional recipes, you will find a few variations, but the general steps and core ingredients are the same.
First step - cook the duck and make stock
The first step is to boil the duck in water with some aromatics including bay leaf, wine and onion. Some other additions can include carrots, garlic cloves, chouriço, bacon and orange peel. Here I have included all apart from the orange.
This process serve two purposes. It both cooks the duck meat, which you then shred up for later, and gives you a flavorful broth that you use to cook the rice in.
Second step - strain stock and shred/chop meats
You can both make the stock and shred the duck ahead of time. In fact, I find it helpful to let it sit a little (or even better, chill in the fridge so it firms) so you can skim off the fat more easily.
If you've included chouriço and bacon at this stage, you can dice these up too. Then store the stock and meats separately in the fridge for a day or two before making the rest of the dish.
Many recipes call for a whole duck, but you can also make this with separate pieces of duck too. I find pieces a little easier to find and easier to handle when cooking, too.
Third step - cook aromatics and rice
To prepare the rice itself, it starts relatively similar to a risotto in that you start by softening onion and garlic, then add the rice followed by the duck stock. You also add in the chopped bacon and chouriço before the rice for added flavor. Let the rice absorb the liquid and just cook through, then remove from the heat.
Fourth step - finish in the oven
The final stage is cooking in the oven. This melds the flavors together and gives a little crispness on top. Some layer the rice and duck, others mix them together. To me, it probably doesn't matter all that much which you do. It's maybe visually a little prettier if layered, but mixing is a whole lot easier.
Either way, you top the dish with slices of chouriço which add extra flavor, particularly as they crisp a little in the oven.
How to serve arroz de pato
Since this dish is on the heavier side, you often serve this with a simple salad to balance it out. It's also common to serve it with slices of orange on the side. It's a flavorful dish, so it's worth keeping anything you serve with it simple. Light is also best since it's pretty rich. Things like greens, green beans (as we had here) or broccoli are all good.
Arroz de pato, Portuguese duck rice, is a relatively simple combination but packed with flavor. While it takes a couple steps to prepare, they are easy enough and it means you capture all the rice deliciousness from the duck in both the meat and into the rice itself. A wonderful meal, whenever you enjoy it.
Try these other rice-based dishes:
- Creole jambalaya (with a tasty mix of chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage)
- Nam khao (Lao crispy rice salad, with bright flavors of lime leaves and more)
- Roman tomatoes stuffed with rice (with a lovely herb flavor in the rice)
- Lebanese chicken and rice (with meat in the rice and a mix of chicken and toasted nuts over the top)
- Plus get more main dish recipes in the archives.
Arroz de pato (Portuguese duck rice)
For stock/cooking duck
- 2 duck legs
- 1 lb duck breasts
- 4 oz smoked bacon (slab/chunks or thick slice is good)
- 5 oz chourico or Spanish chorizo if Portuguese not available
- 1 carrot
- 1 clove garlic small
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 onion small-medium (or ½ large)
- ½ cup red wine
- 4 ¼ cup water approx
For rest of dish
- rest of onion, duck meat, chourico, bacon and duck stock from above
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ cups long grain rice eg basmati
For stock and preparing meats
- Place the duck legs and breasts in a medium-large pot/pan. Cut the chourico in half and add half to the pot, along with the bacon (in a few chunks if it's a slab piece), carrot, garlic clove (no need to peel) and bay leaf. Cut a wedge from the onion and add that in as well. Add the wine and water which should just cover everything else - add a little more if needed.
- Cover the pot and place over a medium-high heat to bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for around 35 - 40 minutes until the duck is cooked through.
- Remove the duck, chourico and bacon from the pot. Let them sit a minute to cool then remove the meat from the duck legs. Add the bones and skin back into the pot and return to the heat and continue to simmer another 20 minutes or so (if you are short on time you could skip this, but I think it helps add to the depth of flavor of the stock).
- As the stock continues to cook, shred up the rest of the duck and set it all aside, discarding any skin or fat. Finely chop the bacon and the chourico that was in the pot and set to one side (can be together).
- Once the stock has cooked a little longer, remove from heat and let cool slightly then remove as much fat from the top as you can, then strain the stock. Discard the bones, carrot etc. If you are preparing this first part ahead, you can let the stock cool to just warm then place whole pot in the fridge overnight and the fat will firm up, making it easier to remove. Store the prepared meats in the fridge as well, in separate containers.
For rest of dish
- When ready to make the main dish, finely chop the onion and finely chop or crush the garlic. Slice the other half of the chourico (the half that wasn't in the stock) and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Warm the oil in a medium pot and add the onion. Cook for a couple minutes to soften then add the garlic, bacon and chourico. Cook for a couple more minutes to soften and become aromatic. Add the rice and stir so that it becomes coated in the oil and cooks briefly.
- Add three cups (720ml) of the duck stock to the pot with the rice (see notes), cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 8 - 10 minutes until the rice is just cooked and the liquid is largely absorbed. It may still be slightly damp looking but that's fine.
- Remove the pot from the heat and mix the shredded duck meat into the rice mixture. Pour everything into a baking dish (I used one about 8in/20cm square) then place the slices of chourico spaced out over the top.
- Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until the top of the rice is gently crisped and the chourico is starting to crisp up as well.
I use my 8in baking dish (the larger from the set linked) for this which works well (affiliate link).
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