I tried a new duck recipe over the weekend, and I'm making it part of my permanent repertoire. I have a favorite recipe for braised duck legs with rustic homemade pasta (the only homemade pasta I make, it's totally worth it, and requires no special tools), but this one caught my eye because it sounded like a nice variation on my favorite.
This takes time--you are slowly braising the duck to make it gorgeously tender--but I consider it an easy recipe. Why? There aren't a lot of steps or fussy prep work. It's just like any other braise or stew: sear the meat, saute aromatics, add cooking liquid (in this case, lots of red wine) and simmer, simmer until duck is tender and sauce is thick. You can get it started and then just hang out and relax while things get tasty.
To me, this ragu is best over polenta, so now we have a naturally gluten-free meal. One note about duck: unfortunately, you can't get it just anywhere (why?!), and it's usually sold frozen, even at the great little butcher shop I go to. Ideally, you'll buy it a day ahead so you have time to defrost. On the plus side, duck legs aren't expensive, and they're just about impossible to mess up when you braise them like this.
Anyone want to share a favorite duck recipe? Or if you know where to get fresh, not frozen, duck legs in Chicago, share!
Duck Ragu, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Adapted from thekitchn
If you need enough to serve 4 or 5 people, add an extra duck leg (you will probably need additional wine for the cooking liquid). This is perfect over polenta—I like to make mine with good-tasting chicken broth (I love Kitchen Basics), and if you eat dairy, it’s nice with a little milk or cheese stirred in at the end.
2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
2 duck legs with thighs attached
1/2 large onion, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 carrot, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon (scant) dried thyme
1 to 1 1/2 cups red wine such as Malbec, Merlot or Pinot Noir
1 (28 ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably unsalted)
1 rosemary sprig
1 dried bay leaf
Fresh chopped rosemary or parsley for garnish (optional)
Trim and discard excess duck fat, leaving the fat directly covering the meat intact. Score this fat, making 3 or 4 short slashes with a sharp knife, taking care not to cut all the way through to the meat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven on medium-high. Add duck and cook until browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Turn off heat and pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pot (if you have a lot of burnt bits or pieces stuck to your pot—this happens to me sometimes—you can discard all the fat, clean out the pot and add 1 tablespoon oil).
Turn heat to medium and add onion and carrot to pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic softens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the wine, turn heat to high, bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and their juice, breaking them up with your hands as you add them to the pot. Add rosemary and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
When duck is cool enough to handle, carefully trim away as much fat as possible (a small sharp paring knife works well). You don’t need to do this, but it means there will be less fat to skim as the ragu cooks. If you are making this a day ahead, you can skip trimming and easily skim the solidified fat once the ragu has chilled.
Add duck to simmering tomato mixture. Add additional wine as needed so that duck is just barely covered with liquid. Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, uncovered, until meat is very tender and easily comes away from the bone, and ragu has thickened, 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Skim fat off the surface and turn duck legs once or twice throughout the cooking process.
Transfer duck to a cutting board. Continue to simmer ragu until reduced to desired thickness, 15 to 30 minutes more. Remove duck meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces. Return to pot. Discard rosemary sprig and bay leaf. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Serve over polenta and garnish with fresh herbs if desired.