What the Duck?!

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny winter day, I woke up with no agenda. Unexpectedly, I met with my best friend for lunch at a halfway point for the two of us. She and I don’t get together very often living on opposite ends of the state, so our little date was MUCH needed. She suggested a cool vegan/vegetarian restaurant known as ION (www.ionrestaurant.com/). I ordered the noodle bowl and I would order again if I had the chance. With full bellies, and a clear conscience we followed up with dessert at NoRa Cupcake Company, It’s been on my hit list for ages and I was so pumped to finally get there.  NoRa had two gluten-free options for my girlfriend to pick from, we chose the Bubbly and it was everything a cupcake should be. You can’t help but smile in the midst of cupcakes, am I right?! Before leaving, I wrapped up an Irish Car Bomb cupcake for my hubby because I’m a good wife 🙂

Before heading home I made a quick stop at the Williams-Sonoma Outlet, sadly I am one of those people who can’t wait to burn through a gift card. Years ago, when I discovered that my husband prefers to squirrel them away for a rainy day, and subsequently forget about them entirely, I just about lost my mind. How is that humanly possible!? Sigh, I digress. Finally, I arrived home with only one bag of goodies in hand, just in time to kiss my Mr. goodbye (but only after he devoured the cupcake).

Road Dog was heading out with the boys, so with time on my hands I figured I would make something that required lots of it. Duck ragu. Has anyone read Bill Buford’s, “Heat”? There is a great bit in there about ragu that made me chuckle, though I’m still making my way through the second half of the book. Confession – I start many books but rarely finish them. Isn’t that awful?!

Some dishes are better the day after when all of the flavors have married, this is one of them. That is, if you have the self-control not to dive in the very second it comes together, *wink! I’ve made this recipe a number of times and it’s earned a ranking as a house favorite. Last Fall I attempted to prepare it on a weeknight get-together with friends – I don’t think we ate until almost 9:30 that night, it was ugly and I don’t recommend it. Save this for a weekend, you’ll be glad you did.

The original recipe was found on theKitchn.com, I look forward to making it when the weather turns cold and perhaps to take the chill off in the house. We keep telling ourselves we’ll have a wood stove or a fireplace in the next one… but back to the topic of duck. Conveniently, it’s almost always available at my grocery store for about the same cost as a package of chicken or possibly even less. Friends, it’s not a stretch to make so don’t be timid about throwing some in your cart. If you don’t see it stocked, check with your local butcher or specialty meat shop.

This duck did not die in vain.
This duck did not die in vain.

My best piece of advice is to prepare and measure out all of your ingredients before you begin to cook, this makes my life so much easier. If you want to get fancy, Chefs refer to the process as “mise en place”. It’s a french term meaning, “everything in place”. If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen, you know how effective and critical this part of the process is.  I highly recommend that you do it.

Here's mine!
Here’s mine!

Duck Ragu


2 duck legs with thigh (washed and at room temp, you want it to sear – not steam)

1 duck breast (same note as above)

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper

2 + tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves of garlic, minced (center folds removed – image below)

Use the tip of your knife to remove the folds, these are bitter.
Use the tip of your knife to remove the folds, these are bitter.

1 medium onion (I use shallot)

1 medium carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon or more cinnamon (my cinnamon is very potent so I use less, the original recipe calls for a full teaspoon)

1 28 oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes

1 cup of red wine – whatever you have. (Note: If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it.)

1-2 cups of chicken stock or more to cover the duck. (I use filtered water and low sodium “Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base”)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Grated parmesan or cubed Mozzarella for serving

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1-1.5 lbs of cooked pasta (we love mezzi rigatoni or campanelle)

To serve

Salt and pepper your duck, am I the only one who loves the sound of a pepper grinder? In a dutch oven, heat the EVOO over medium heat. Just before it starts to smoke (you have a 20 degree window, no pressure!), add the duck and back up. This will sputter and spit, that oil is hot. Let each side brown, resist the urge to peek or adjust the pieces at all before flipping, about ten minutes. Seriously, don’t touch! Remove the meat and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat. *** Rendered duck fat is a prized cooking fat, pour it in a small mason jar or something heat resistant and save it for future use. Trust me on that…it keeps for a very long time in the fridge.

Sizzle and Pop!
Sizzle and Pop!

Add the mirepoix (celery, carrot, onion), garlic, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and stir well. Take a deep inhale of gratitude for the incredible aromatics filling up your kitchen. Yum!

Mirepoix and some gahhhlic
Mirepoix and some gahhhlic
Darn shadows in my dark small kitchen!!
Darn shadows in my dark small kitchen!!

Stir often for about five minutes to let the vegetables soften. Return the duck to the pot, add the tomatoes, wine, chicken stock, and rosemary.

My most favorite canned tomatoes, I should take out stock.
My most favorite canned tomatoes, I should take out stock.
Keep Better than Bouillon in your fridge for  when you don't have a box of good culinary stock available.
Keep Better than Bouillon in your fridge for when you don’t have a box of good culinary stock available.

Bring it to a boil, cover, and lower the heat so this concoction simmers. Finally you can enjoy that glass of wine, I sure did. Let it go for about an hour and a half, until the meat is falling off the bone.

When the timer goes off, grab the meat and any bones with tongs – set everything on a sheet pan or plate and let cool. Tear off the skin, remove the bones, and  discard. Start shredding the meat into bite size pieces with a fork and throw all of that deliciousness back into your pot, simmer for another half hour or until thick and taste. Salt and pepper it if need be.

Into the pot she goes!
Into the pot she goes!
Ready to cool overnight for Sunday dinner.
Ready to cool overnight for Sunday dinner.

Serve the ragu over your pasta, topped with cheese and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Sunday dinner

MmmMMmm!! I’d love to hear if anyone gives this a try, questions and comments are welcome!

6 Replies to “What the Duck?!”

  1. This post looks amazing! Great photos too! Well done and looking forward to more.

  2. Sounds delicious! Pictures & instruction really help with preparation. Enjoyed your intro, as well. A impressive beginning – looking forward to many more posts!

  3. Great way to kick off the blog, with a great Sunday supper. I have to try this. I love love love duck! You make it look so easy. I think this would be tough for me lol. Good call on mise en place, I have to try that. It may be the ticket for me to get me cooking. Love the blog. – Gina

  4. I am going make that egg sandwich for Sunday breakfast, looks good. Can I borrow some ghee? ; )

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