Confit de canard goes Italian

One of the email newsletters I receive is called “Great British Chefs,” and it often provides some interesting recipes — like the recent “Duck ragu.” Since it sounded pretty yummy, I thought I’d try it, but with a Greater Daglan Area twist.

The original recipe starts with baking two duck legs until they are tender. But since the GDA is in the heart of duck country, and confit de canard is so readily available in supermarkets, I thought I would use two already prepared confit de canard legs for the sauce. That way, I could be sure that the meat would be tender, since the confit process involves long, slow cooking in duck fat. Here’s how it went.

I began by microwaving the two duck legs in a glass baking dish for just a few minutes, to melt off the excessive fat. Then I put the baking dish into a 220 Celsius oven for long enough to brown the skin. When they looked ready, I pulled them out of the oven to cool down on the kitchen counter, looking like this:

The two duck legs, just out of the 220 Celsius oven.

The two duck legs, just out of the 220 Celsius oven.

Once they were cool enough to handle, I used two forks to pull the meat off the bones, tearing it into fairly large shreds. I kept some of the skin separate, to crisp up still further in a small skillet, to be used on top of the final dish. Here’s how the meat from one duck leg looked after a few minutes of shredding:

Here's the shredded meat from just one of the duck legs.

Here’s the shredded meat from just one of the duck legs.

Meanwhile, I was making a fairly standard tomato sauce, not much different from what I’d make for spaghetti and meatballs. My drill is this: I sweat some finely sliced onion and chopped celery in olive oil until they’re fairly soft; toss in some sliced garlic and cook for another couple of minutes; then add tomato paste, a large tin of chopped tomatoes, a good glug of Italian red wine, a couple of sugar cubes, and a fair bit of traditional ragu herbs like oregano and marjoram. Then I let the sauce simmer to thicken, and taste it every now and then to adjust the seasonings — perhaps salt, perhaps pepper, perhaps more herbs, perhaps more wine.

When it tastes good, it’s good.

At that point, I just put in the duck meat to heat through. Here’s how the sauce pan looked just as I started adding the duck meat:

Here, I've just started stirring the duck meat into the tomato sauce.

Here, I’ve just started stirring the duck meat into the tomato sauce.

At that point, I prepared a bunch of tagliatelle pasta in boiling, salted water; after it was cooked and drained, I added duck ragu until the mixture looked just about right. After being dressed with some fresh rosemary and some bits of crisped duck skin, I had a plate that looked pretty nice:

A good looking plate of duck ragu.

A good looking plate of duck ragu.

As it turned out, we had enough sauce that my wife Jan and I enjoyed it for lunch yesterday (Thursday), with sufficient sauce left over that we’ll be able to have duck ragu again for lunch tomorrow (Saturday) with some fresh pasta.

So far, we’re thinking that for Sunday’s lunch we’ll do something traditional. Like chicken and spinach curry, made with authentic French chicken, served over steamed Basmati rice.

This entry was posted in French food, Life in southwest France, Recipes, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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