I love duck.
It’s something I enjoy ordering when eating out….confit de canard, pan seared duck breast, or even a glistening Chinese style roasted Peking duck. But it’s not something I really make at home. So when we chose it as the main star for our last Sunday Family Dinner, it took me awhile to decide what I wanted my contribution to the meal would be.
The teenagers have been exposed to duck for years now but I was wary of serving the younger muchkins something along the lines of a rare pan seared duck breast. Not that they don’t have refined palates (they shovel down high end sashimis and lobsters like no one’s business) but I wanted to make something that I knew would go over easy and while expanding their taste buds.
A sugo over fresh pasta seemed like a no brainer. Slow braised and simmered so that everything would be married together in flavor.
As I shared in my last post, we picked up whole ducks (heads, beaks, feet and all!) that I warily broke down. And although it did test my psyche as I took a huge cleaver to the little duckies, you do get the best bang for your buck when you go with this route.
Plus, I was able to use all the leftover parts to create a rich, deep duck stock that we not only ended up using in the sugo but had quarts leftover for later use.
While the stock simmered away, I took on the mise. Yup…that’s right. Any slow cooked sauce I make almost always contains a mirepoix. Translation? Lots and lots of diced onions, carrots and celery. And of course there must also be lots of garlic and fresh herbs.
To add an extra depth of flavor, I used reconstituted porcini mushrooms. The mushrooms and their liqueur (the liquid that reconstituted the ‘shrooms) were both used in the sugo.
And if you haven’t noticed, I’m kinda obsessed with ‘shrooms of all sorts.
Once the mise is done, I get to browning the duck. Because I don’t care what anyone says— browned meat before a slow cook always makes things taste nice.
After the duck is golden brown, you remove it from the pot to allow it to rest. Using the leftover olive oil and rendered duck fat, start sweating away the mirepoix. At some point, cubed pancetta also gets thrown into the mix.
And yes, I realize that this is a duck dish but are you really surprised that I would sneak some pork into the party somehow?
Next comes the poricinis, its liqueur, white vino and some more homemade duck stock.
By the way, if you’re not as obsessive as yours truly, feel free to substitute with store bought duck or chicken stock. I wouldn’t blame you for it.
Once this all done, you throw the browned duck back into the pot, plop a lid on it and slide it into the oven for about 1.5-2 hours so that it can do it’s magic. Where are the pictures of this step?
Um…let’s just say that someone was too busy drinking a cocktail and forgot to snap a photo of it. Oh who are we kidding…that someone was me.
You can also take this opportunity to finagle your big seester into making fresh pappardelle pasta. Sure, you can use store-bought but this is what big seesters are for. For making homemade pasta and
to bail you out of jail helping out in tricky situations.
Once the duck becomes super tender, you remove it from the veggies and shred it into pieces. Then, blend up the veggies and add the meat back into the pot for a last simmer. Once it’s all done, toss the sugo with the fresh al dente pappardelle and top with a bright gremolata.
Especially when you add the bright notes from the gremolata and earthiness from the parmesan.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not a quick process. Not even close!
But sugos are meant for slow cooking days when you’re hanging out at home with loved ones, sipping on vino (or cocktails — or BOTH!) and when you just want to cook something delicious to share with your loved ones to show—well, how much you love them.
Perfect for a Sunday Family Dinner.
Fresh Pappardelle with Duck Sugo
1 quart duck or chicken stock, divided
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds skinless, duck thighs and breasts (bone in)
2 cups diced white onions
2 cups diced celery
2 cups diced carrots
4 ounces diced pancetta
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
6-8 rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons chopped sage
¼ cup finely minced parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1½ pound pappardelle pasta
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Heat ½ cup of the duck (chicken) stock and place in a small bowl. Add the dried porcinis, ensuring that all the mushrooms are covered in the liquid. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or other heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat. Season the duck with kosher salt and black pepper. In batches, brown all sides of the duck and remove to a large plate to rest.
Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until the vegetables are softened but not browned, about 7-8 minutes. Add the pancetta, garlic, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the dried porcini mushrooms that were reconstituted in the stock, saving the liquid (its liqueur). Pour in the wine and stir the vegetables around. Cook until the liquids have been reduced by half. Stir in the liquid that the porcinis were reconstituted in–careful not to add in the mushroom grit/sand. Add the remaining duck (chicken) stock and allow the liquids to come to a boil.
Nestle the browned duck back into the pot amongst the vegetables along with the thyme, rosemary and sage. Once the liquids come back up to a boil, cover the pot and place into a 300 degree F oven for 1.5 -2 hours, until the meat is very tender and falling off the bone.
While the duck braises, prepare the gremolata. In a small bowl, add the parsley, lemon zest, remaining red pepper flakes and a few pinches of kosher salt. Use a fork and mash the ingredients together allowing the natural oils from the parsley and lemon to be released. Set aside.
Once the duck has finished cooking and is very tender, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Transfer the duck to a platter and allow to cool slightly. Once the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone and shred it into bite sized pieces.
Returning to the pot of vegetables, skim off and discard as much oil/fat from the surface as possible. Using an immersion blender, puree the vegetables until it becomes a fairly smooth sauce. Taste and adjust with additional salt or pepper as needed. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a standard blender or food processor. Add the shredded duck back to the pot and allow the items to simmer and thicken the sauce over low heat for an additional 10-15 minutes.
While the sugo simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about ½ cup of the starchy water.
Add the cooked pappardelle into the sugo, coating the pasta well. If you want a looser based sauce, add a tablespoon at a time of the starchy pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Plate the pasta with the sugo and top each plate with the grated parmesan cheese and gremolata.