Mallard Duck and Barley risotto with Sunflower shoots

I went over to the house of my friends Todd and Leslie this weekend.  Todd (being a hunter) had a bunch of mallard ducks. Their meat was beautiful and maroon in color.  In the two hours before his guests arrived, we whipped up a few tasty items including Barley risotto.  Since we don’t grow Arborio rice in MN, barley is a great substitute.  And I added wild rice for extra earthy Minnesotaness.  The combination of the two grains is delicious and one of my favorite things to make!

  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 roughly chopped onion
  • 2 ducks
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon Fennel seed (toasted)
  • 2 cups barley
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 package of sunflower shoots
  • 1 package of thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil

Butcher ducks. Remove all excess fat and cook in a pot with a little water. This will render out the fat.  Once the water has dissolved and there is a fair amount of fat in the pan, place the duck legs (salted) skin side down in the pan.  Cook until the skin has a little color and more fat has rendered out.  Add a couple sprigs of thyme and one clove of garlic, flip the legs so they are close together and submerged in fat.  Cook on low until your stock and risotto are ready (2-3 hours).  Pull the meat off the bone and chop into small pieces.

At the same time, roast the carcases and chopped onion in the oven at 400° degrees until nicely browned.  Put in a stock pot with 3 cloves garlic, 5 sprigs of thyme, black pepper and fennel seed (or whatever you want/have!).  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 2 hours (skimming off any foam or particles that come to the surface).  Strain, season and reduce on the stove.

Cook wild rice in water or stock with salt.  Set aside.

Saute onion in duck fat and salt until translucent.  Add barley and saute for one or two minutes.  Add wine.  Stir until it dissolves, then slowly add the stock (hot).  Keep adding stock and letting it dissolve over 20-30 minutes.  Keep tasting the barley for consistency.  You want it to have a little bite.  Once your barley has reached a good state, add the wild rice.  Heat the wild rice through, then melt in the butter followed by the Parmesan cheese.  When you plate the risotto, it should immediately form a sauce.  Make sure the salt level is good.  Garnish the risotto with something fresh.  I used sunflower shoots with lemon juice.  But you could add just about anything.

For the duck breasts.  Salt liberally.  Or marinate — I marinated mine in salt, garlic, pepper, thyme and olive oil for 2 hours.  When the risotto is about half way cooked, start cooking the breasts.  In a little duck fat, slowly cook the breasts skin side down.  The slower you can do this the better.  If too much fat comes out, pour it off into the risotto (too much fat will make the skin less crispy).  After 10 minutes on low heat, flip the breasts over or baste them in the duck fat.  Let rest for a good 10 minutes.  Then slice and serve with the risotto.