I designed this recipe a few years ago, and it is perfect for cooling nights — and for the legs and wings of the ducks and geese we hunt. Unlike duck and goose breasts, which ought to be served medium-rare, legs and wings need long, slow braising to become tender. This bolognese-style pasta sauce does the trick. It does take a little time to make, but it stores and reheats really well.
The recipe is designed for wild ducks and geese, but it will of course work with domestic waterfowl, too; your cooking time will be shorter. Oh, and do try your best to get the dried mushrooms for this dish — they make a difference.
duck or goose ragu
Basically this is a classic sugo — long-simmered pasta sauce that is so intensely flavorful a little dab will do ya. The ideal accompaniment to this sauce is long pasta, such as tagliatelle, pappardelle or spaghetti, with a little grated Pecorino or Parmesan. Top it with a fried sage leaf and you’re getting fancy.
There are several important keys to the success of this recipe. First, you need a good sear on the meat. Take your time and get your duck or goose bits good and browned — if you have a thick layer of crusty stuff built up on the bottom of the pan, even better. Second, you need as many ducky elements as you can muster: I use duck fat and duck broth to go with the duck meat.
Another thing: This is an absolutely perfect use for gizzards. Gizzards are, after all, just meat; they are what a duck uses to grind the seeds it eats into digestible bits. Cleaned, gizzards are deeply ducky and satisfyingly meaty. (Here’s how to clean a gizzard.) Besides, they get ground up at the end so no one will know!
- 3 pounds duck or goose bits: legs, thighs, wings, giblets, etc
- 2 chopped onions
- 2 chopped celery sticks
- 2 chopped, large carrots
- 3 tablespoons duck fat
- 1 package dried porcini mushrooms, about a handful
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 quart duck broth (you can use chicken)
- 1 bottle red wine (medium-bodied, such as Pinot Noir)
- 4 tablespoons minced parsley
- Grated Pecorino or Pamesan cheese
- Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the duck fat. When it melts, add the duck or goose parts and brown them well. Salt the meat lightly as it cooks. Do not crowd the pot and take your time. Do it in batches if you need to.
- When the meat is browned, remove it and add the carrots, celery and onions. Brown them well, stirring occasionally. If you need to, add a little more duck fat. Sprinkle the veggies with salt.
- When the veggies are browned, remove them and add a cup of red wine. Turn the heat up to high ans scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon until it is clean of debris. Let the red wine boil down by half.
- Meanwhile, mix together the tomato paste and the rest of the wine. When the first cup of wine has boiled down, add the wine-tomato paste mixture. Bring this to a rolling boil and let it reduce by half. Add the duck broth and bring it all to a boil. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
- Add the bay leaves, oregano, cloves, nutmeg and porcini mushrooms, then turn the heat down to medium. Stir well and then return the veggies and meat to the pot. Mix well. Cover and simmer gently for at least 3 hours, more if you are using Canada geese or very old ducks.
- When the meat is about to fall off the bone, remove from heat and take the meat out. Pull it off the bones, then put about 1/3 of it back into the pot. Push the meat through a food mill with a coarse grate attached. If you do not have a food mill, an immersion blender would work, as would a China cap — even a metal colander. As a last resort, you could buzz the solids in a food processor and return it to the pot. My advice: Buy a food mill.
- To serve, boil some pasta. When it’s done, mix some sauce with the pasta, then dish onto plates. Top with some more sauce, then some parsley and grated cheese.