Recipe: Duck Ragu


Dear Offspring,

I am constantly fascinated by what you will eat, like duck. Your father gets very excited when he discovers duck legs in the fridge, because he knows what is to come.

It’s been a long and lazy Summer, back from our travels, and now we are getting close to the season for my favorite method of cooking: braising. I love braising because it’s a like magic, a transformative process of coaxing out layers of flavor in three simple steps: browning, aromatics, braising liquid. Bunk in the oven and, soon enough, your house will smell like heaven. Who needs a crock pot?

Speaking of heaven, I’ve enjoyed every minute of Summer with you, my loves. I love that you love to cook with me. I love that you love being outdoors. I love that you love reading and laughing at your own jokes. But what I love most is you.

Love from Mom

Duck Ragu

Adapted from Molly Stevens, ‘All About Braising’

A.

4 large Moulard or Muscovy duck legs (including the thigh)

Salt and black pepper

B.

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/4″ rounds

1 celery stalk, chopped into 1/4″ pieces

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1.5 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp ground allspice

C.

2/3 cup dry white wine or Vermouth

2 cups chicken stock

1x 14.5oz can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes

2 bay leaves

D.

Red wine vinegar

1 box dry pasta like bucatini, spaghetti or penne

*****

Preheat the oven to 325F/163C.

A. Trim the excess fat off the duck legs. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a 5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the duck legs skin-side down until the skin is crispy, then turn over to brown the other side. The duck will throw off enough fat soon enough to get things going.

B. Pour off the excess duck fat, reserving 1 tbsp. Add the onions, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until softened.

Then add the garlic, rosemary and allspice. Mix thoroughly and sauté until fragrant.

C. Add the white wine. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom to release any caramelized bits stuck there. Reduce the wine by half, then add the stock. Simmer again to reduce the stock by half, then add the canned tomatoes with their juice. Break up the tomatoes into chunks with your wooden spoon and let the braising liquids simmer for a few minutes to meld the flavors.

Return the duck legs to the pot, skin-side up. Tuck the bay leaves in between. Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down the paper until it nearly touches the duck with about 1″ overhanging the pot. Cover with the lid.

Transfer the pot into the preheated oven, middle rack, and braise for 2 hours.

After the duck has been cooked till fork-tender, let the whole thing rest for 20 minutes to an hour. (It can be refrigerated up to two days.)

D. Shortly before serving, and while the pasta is cooking, remove the duck legs. Skim as much fat off as possible from the surface of the sauce, then heat the sauce back up.  Taste and add more salt as needed, as well as a good brace of black pepper. Finish with a splash of red wine vinegar.

Keep on a low simmer while you prepare the duck. Using your fingers or two forks, pull the duck meat from the bones and shred it into coarse hunks. Return the meat to the sauce and simmer until warm throughout. The sauce should be thick and meaty. (If I have time, I fry up the skin, cut into strips, till it’s crispy for a garnish.) Serve over the cooked pasta.

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