This is one of my family favorites – an often request! For everyone’s birthday, I always make whatever they want. Our oldest son requested this as his first course this year. Once, for my husband, who loves duck, I made a dinner that literally took three days to make – and we still ate at 11 pm!! It was Duck Three Ways and a whole host of other things that I have blocked out of my mind now, but I do remember I was ready to shoot myself in the middle of it. However, the meal was worthy of the highest restaurant meal – like Daniel – really! And my oldest son has been asking for it since, but I think I hid all the recipes and still haven’t recuperated. It’s been four years. And that was when we were moving from Summit, NJ, back to Manhattan and living in a temporary apartment in Summit with a crappy kitchen and an electric stove. But you know, I have a old electric stove here in the country and I think that if you know what you’re doing, you adjust and survive.
Here we go. Now remember, for a weeknight dinner, cook your duck the night before and this becomes a really quick meal – under an hour with a side vegetable.
PASTA WITH TUSCAN DUCK SAUCE – 4 main-course servings
3 duck legs
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, hand crushed
1 pound cut pasta, like penne or fusilli
Grated pecorino Romano cheese
Trim visible fat from duck legs, then lay them, skin side down, in a 10-inch skillet. Turn heat to medium; when duck begins to sizzle, turn heat to low and cover. Cook undisturbed about 60 – 65 minutes (check once to be sure legs aren’t burning); the skin should be golden brown. Turn and cook until duck is very tender, about 20 – 25 minutes.
Remove duck and set aside. (Or if cooking the night before, remove duck, cool and refrigerate. Scrape cooled duck fat into another container and refrigerate. Then melt duck fat in a skillet and continue. You need to cook the onions in the duck fat because that is what adds the huge flavor.) Add onion to skillet with the duck fat and turn heat to low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 15 – 20 minutes. Add the garlic. Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
Add wine to skillet and raise heat to high; cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Add tomatoes that you’ve crushed by hand as you’re adding them, with their juice, and some salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is saucy, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. You will need some more salt and pepper. About 5 – 7 minutes after adding tomatoes, cook pasta. When it is al dente, (usually 1- 2 minutes less than the least amount of time they tell you on the package – taste it to be sure. It should be done but just done – no raw dry pasta in the middle but it should have some tension.) Drain it.
While pasta is cooking, shred duck from bone and add it to sauce near the end. You just need to heat it through now. and serve it with the pasta, along with cheese.