Last Night for Dinner…Venetian Duck Ragu

Doesn’t the word Venetian make you think of a planet of alien beings from an episode of Star Trek? On the planet Venetian there was a tribe of curiously strong and strangely hued Venetians. I know this is all terribly immature. But there you have it. And I know someone totally thought the same thing about the Venetians.

Time to be a grown up again.

Fancy Pants

I decided that at least once a week I was going to try a more elaborate kind of recipe. One with many steps, complicated culinary terms and perhaps hard to find ingredients. While duck really isn’t all that hard to get (locally visit the frozen meat case at Uwajimaya) it’s not something I’ve made very often. Remind me to tell you about the duck proscuitto I made in my basement. It involved a black knee high. Ragu has become a very common term, but conceptually, the making of a ragu made me feel all extra culinary. And it involved red wine. One cup of red wine for the ragu. One cup of red wine for me. What’s not to love?!

Yes there are a substantial amount of ingredients, many steps are involved. You may actually get splattered with duck fat during the making of this dish. Once again protective gear is strongly recommended. It does involve hours of simmering. But while the ragu is simmering away making your kitchen smell amazeballs (thank you G. for that term) you can catch up on Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Revenge and any other one of your favorite stories.

For the record this recipe is totally worth the time, effort and trying to find duck legs and thighs. This would qualify as a dish that is referred to as an ‘holy shit dish’ because it’s that good. Serve it with a roasted veg salad, some really good bread and mix up a bit of garlic compound butter that you can lavishly spread on the bread.

Pappardelle with Venetian Duck Ragu

  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in duck legs and thighs
  • Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped (I find celery to be a completely useless veg and refuse to use it in any recipe)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed and peeled (more is always better)
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped (I actually used a handful of those freaky little baby carrots chopped up)
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 fresh bay leaf or 1/2 dried
  • 1 cup dry Italian red wine, such as Valpolicella
  • 1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 lb. fresh pappardelle, preferably whole-wheat, or fettucine or spaghetti (regrettably mine was not fresh. but it did come from Trader Joe’s so I should get some culinary hipster points for that)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional) (why in the world would that be optional?)
The Ragu

Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the duck legs and thighs with salt and pepper and arrange them in the pot, skin side down. Sear until the skin is browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn the legs over and brown the other sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the duck to a deep platter. Pour off all but about 1 Tbs. of the rendered fat and discard or save for another use. (Always save the duck fat! you can stock up and someday make a confit)

Reduce the heat to medium low. Put the celery, garlic, onion, carrot, sage, and bay leaf in the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, 7 to 8 minutes.
Pour in the wine and increase the heat to high. Cook at a lively (what does ‘lively’ really mean?) simmer for 1 minute and then reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and 1/2 cup of the broth. Return the duck to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer (not a lively one). Cover the pot and simmer until the meat is fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. (This is when you catch up on all your stories or do something productive like clean the bathroom)

Remove the duck from the pot and set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, skim the excess fat from the top of the sauce with a large spoon. If the sauce seems thin, continue simmering until flavorful and thickened to a saucy consistency. (Mine was totally thin and not at all saucy so I simmered the beejeesus out of it. totally worked.)

Discard the duck skin and shred the meat. Add the shredded meat to the sauce, along with the other 1/2 cup of broth if the sauce seems too thick. Let the sauce simmer gently for 15 minutes; discard the garlic and bay leaf . Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta and serve

I’m going to assume you can cook pasta and serve it without any input from me. 

The ragù can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat gently before tossing with pasta.

Recipe and image courtesy of the find folks at Fine Cooking.

Enjoy! Until next time…Moose out

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