I know many of you have probably never cooked with duck - frankly, I hadn't much myself. but I've had a whole duck sitting in the freezer since the fall from Eastern Plains and I ran across a fabulous looking recipe in an Italian cookbook while I was in San Diego (check out my cookbook reviews for details), so I decided to improvise a bit and make my own version of this Parma, Italy style duck ragu sauce. It was a hit at my Valentine's Day dinner, so I hope you'll give it a try. Not sold on duck? Try it with beef short ribs - follow all the directions the same except discard the bones and and gristle and shred the beef into the sauce.
Pappardelle with Duck Ragu
1 whole duck
1/4 cup porcini mushroom, dried
1 1/2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cups diced fresh tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 pound pappardelle (egg pasta)
1/4 cup minced parsley
Parmesan cheese, for topping
Cut duck into pieces and remove most of the fat. (Fat may be frozen for later use.) Combine porcini mushrooms with hot water and allow them to rehydrate. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven, then add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables are softened and start to take on some color, about 5-10 minutes. Add duck pieces (including carcass pieces) and brown on all sides. Squeeze water from mushrooms and add them to the pot. Strain any sand from the mushroom liquid and add it to the pot along with the fresh tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 1 hour. Remove duck from the sauce and let cool. Let sauce stand on the counter just long enough for any excess fat to rise to the surface; remove with a spoon and discard. Puree the sauce with a stick blender and continue to simmer the sauce and allow it to reduce. Remove all meat and skin from the duck pieces. Discard the skin and all bones and shred the duck meat. Return duck meat to the sauce and add the Parmesan rind. Allow it to simmer until reduced and thickened, about 2 more hours. Discard Parmesan rind. To serve, cook pappardelle pasta until al dente, then toss with duck sauce. Top each serving with some chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese.