Portuguese Duck and Sausage in Rice

portuguese duck and sausage with rice
Photo: Troyce Hoffman

Duck is my favorite meat. I started cooking it at the Chutney Kitchen, and in those early years, I could only get frozen duck from somewhere in the Midwest. I would have to take them out the night before to thaw them so I could bone them in the morning. And since I usually cooked legs rather than breasts, I would end up with a bunch of leftover breasts in the freezer. Bruce LeFavour, that extraordinary chef who ran Rose et LeFavour, over in St.Helena, preferred the breasts. So we would trade my leftover duck breasts for his legs.

Then I heard about Liberty Ducks, which Jim Reichardt was starting up in the Sonoma Valley. Even though it was a new business, Jim was a fourth-generation duck grower. His family ran, and still runs, the Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma, where they raise Pekin ducks. But Jim wanted to strike out on his own, thus the name Liberty. He chose to raise a leaner and meatier strain of Pekin duck, which came out of Denmark. In addition, he refused to use antibiotics or hormones and he didn’t cage his ducks. He let them roam freely outdoors, feeding them corn and other grains. It made a difference. Their meat had a better texture, was more tender, and was definitely tastier. And Jim was willing to sell pieces and parts. Hallelujah! I could buy great legs, breasts, livers, and duck fat in separate packages. Oh joy, because I could cook my legs several different ways on different nights. I had only one way that I liked to present the breasts, which was to panfry them and fan out the rare slices over bitter greens or cabbage, with something a little sweet to add contrast, such as sautéed apples.

The livers we made into my favorite presentation for big parties (Duck Liver Pâté with Rosemary & Orange). In later years, I learned to make a confit, gently poaching the legs in large quantities of duck fat. But I gave that up because I decided that cooking the legs my way was just as good and quicker, and much less extravagant than using all that duck fat.

When it was just Don and me and I was cooking mostly for two, I was buying whole ducks again, still from Jim at my beloved Liberty Ducks. I enjoyed boning out just one duck, as opposed to the fifteen to twenty I used to do for the restaurant. I’d cook a duck leg for dinner one night, or two legs so I’d have enough left over to garnish a salad the next day or use for tacos. The breast I’d put in the freezer and save for a special occasion. The trimmings produced a little jar of duck fat and enough cracklings to garnish a salad or soup. The bonus, which I value most highly, was the large pot of stock I could make from the bones. Print

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Portuguese Duck and Sausage in Rice

There’s nothing about the ingredients here that are Portuguese, but the idea for this recipe came from the Portuguese arroz de pato, a traditional dish of duck and rice from southern Portugal cooked in a clay pot with chouriço, the Portuguese version of chorizo. The clay pot not only looks great but contributes to the flavor of the food you’re cooking. Paula Wolfert, whose collection of unglazed earthenware numbers in the hundreds, has said that if she only had one dish to cook in, it would be a clay pot.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes


6 cups chicken stock

6 duck legs, with thighs attached, trimmed of any excess skin and fat, at room temperature

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large onions, sliced lengthwise

3 garlic cloves, sliced

2 andouille sausages, sliced into coins

3 Tbsp butter or olive oil

2 cups [400 g] rice

1 cup [60 g] sun-dried tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces

Coarsely chopped fresh parsley


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C].
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring 6 cups chicken stock to a boil. Good chicken or duck stock is really important for flavor in this recipe. Lower the heat and keep the stock hot. 
  3. Season the 6 duck legs with salt and freshly ground black pepper.Transfer to a roasting pan and cook the duck in the oven until deeply browned, about 45 minutes. Turn off the oven.
  4. Pour off the excess fat, setting aside 3 tablespoons for this dish, and saving the rest to make the cracklings. Return the duck legs to the oven to rest while you proceed with the recipe.
  5. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the 3 Tbsp of reserved duck fat. Add the 2 large onions, and 3 garlic cloves, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sauté until softened .
  6. Transfer the onion and garlic mixture to another large roasting pan, a casserole dish, or, best choice, an earthenware cazuela.
  7. Gently sauté 2 andouille sausages until browned.Discard the fat, and transfer the sausage to the roasting pan with the onions.
  8. Add a little of the hot chicken stock to the skillet, heat turned off, and use a pastry brush to dissolve the bits and pieces on the bottom in the liquid. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Pour into the roasting pan with the onions and sausage.
  9. Remove the duck from the oven and reheat the oven to 350°F [180°C].
  10. In a clean skillet over medium heat, warm melt 3 Tbsp butter or olive oil and add the 2 cups of rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is hot and just showing a little color, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the roasting pan along with the sun-dried tomatoes.
  11. Arrange the duck on top. Pour over 4 cups of the reserved hot chicken stock. Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake until the rice is cooked, at least 30 minutes.
  12. Uncover to let the duck crisp up again, about 10 more minutes.
  13. The dish will hold, loosely covered in a 300°F oven, for at least 1 hour. The extra time in the oven actually improves the flavor and texture. I like the crisp, brown edges around the pan.
  14. To serve, spoon some of the rice on each plate and place a duck leg on top.Sprinkle with cracklings from the reserved rendered duck fat and parsley. Spoon a little of the remaining chicken stock over each serving.
  15. To make the cracklings: Cut the reserved trimmings of skin and fat into ½ in [12 mm] dice. Warm reserved duck fat in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the trimmings, turn the heat to low, and cook the diced trimmings until they render their fat and are nicely browned. It will probably take about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and salt immediately. Keep warm or rewarm in oven when ready to use. These also make a delicious snack for a hungry cook or helper.


six california kitchens cookbook

Sally Schmitt (1932 -2022) opened The French Laundry in Yountville in 1978 and designed her menus around local, seasonal ingredients—a novel concept at the time. 

Reprinted from Six California Kitchens by Sally Schmitt with permission from Chronicle Books, 2022. Photographs © Troyce Hoffman.

  • Author: Sally Schmidt
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 150 minutes
  • Category: Poultry
  • Cuisine: Portuguese


  • Serving Size: 6

Keywords: Portuguese Duck and Sausage in Rice