Recipe: A Simple Duck Ragu

When I cleaned out my freezer last week as part of The Kitchen Cure's Week 1 Assignment, I found some duck legs. What a treasure! Most frozen meat, including duck legs from an unknown date, is best slated for a stew or sauce, so duck ragu called out to me.

I made it Thursday night, let it sit in its own juices Friday, then served it to a hungry crowd on Saturday night. I snapped that photo on the first take — but not on the first glass of wine — only to discover later it didn't show enough sauce! Trust me, this is a saucy one.The serving suggestion of cubed Mozzarella was another attempt at cleaning out the fridge as part of the Cure assignment. I think it was a nice pairing, since the ragu was a shade of spicy (red pepper flakes are optional as always.) I also didn't have Italian parsley, which is the usual green topping. Instead I grabbed some chives from the yard and arugula from the salad bowl. It added another shade of spice, and I think it's something I might do again, but next time on purpose.

A Simple Duck Ragu
Serves 6-8

2 duck legs and thighs
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes
1 cup red wine
1-2 cups additional liquid such as chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 pound dried or 1 1/2 pounds fresh pasta, cooked and drained
Grated Parmesan or cubed mozzarella (about 1/4 cup) for serving
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley or other green matter (arugula, chives, etc.)

Season the duck legs with salt and pepper. In a heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the duck legs and cook on all sides, turning with tongs, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove duck legs and set aside. Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat.

Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon and stir well, coating vegetables with spices. Continue to cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Return duck legs to the pot, add the tomatoes, wine, enough additional liquid to just cover duck legs, and rosemary. Return to a boil, lower the flame, cover and allow to simmer for 1-1 1/2 hours or until meat is tender and falls easily off bone.

Remove the duck legs and allow to cool. Pull away meat from skin and bones (discard skin and bones) and shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Return meat to pot and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until thick. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and add a few shakes of salt. Cook pasta until al dente and drain. Re-heat the sauce if necessary, and toss with pasta. Serve immediately, topped with cheese and chosen greens.

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