This is an assignment that has been hanging around since September, and I've had duck legs in the freezer waiting to be used for a while. The recipe is from Lidia's Italy (a book I don't have), by Lidia Bastianich, and comes from Maremma, in the southwest of Tuscany on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Duck legs (or a whole duck) are braised, the meat shredded, and added back to the sauce to top homemade pappardelle or other pasta.
You start the sauce by soaking some dried porcini (cèpes) in hot poultry or vegetable stock. I used the rest of my Thanksgiving turkey stock for this.
The recipe calls for 4 pounds of duck legs (5-6) or a whole duck. My four legs weighed in at 1.3 kilos, just short of 3 pounds. This amount of meat made a goodly amount of sauce, serving 4 as a main course and 6 (or even 8?) if the pasta were served as part of a proper Italian meal. If you have more duck, though, I wonder how big your skillet must be to cook them? My 4 legs fit comfortably in my largest skillet. Maybe a fifth one could have been jiggled into there, but that would make the "tumbling" pretty awkward.
While the legs are browning, make a pestata in your food processor by whizzing onion, celery, garlic, sage, parsley, and rosemary. (I was a bit surprised that there was no carrot included in this, since that seems to be very typical of Italian sauces.) Italian parsley was asked, but I forgot to buy this, so used the curly kind instead. Rosemary and sage from the garden.
When the legs are browned on both sides, you set them aside and reduce the fat in the pan to only 4 tablespoons (olive oil or duck fat or a combination). Warm this again, add the pestata, and cook till it's dry. Then put the legs back in the pan and "tumble". Add the soaked porcini and tumble some more. Then add white wine and continue tumbling. When the wine is gone, add the mushroom soaking liquid, heat to a boil, put the lid on ajar, turn the heat down, and let it simmer for at least an hour and a half. Check every 20 minutes or so and add additional stock when the liquid gets a bit low.
The house smells really good while this is simmering away. When the meat is done, I removed the legs and poured the sauce into another container where the fat could rise and be easily removed. Meanwhile, I shredded the meat back into the skillet, a messy, but fun job.
Add the defatted sauce back to the skillet and simmer for a while, while cooking the pasta. After a busy day, I didn't feel like making pasta from scratch, so I boiled up some store-bought tagliatelle. When it was drained, I put it back in its pot and tossed it with half the duck sauce.
Very toothsome, indeed, said Ed. We ate only half the sauce tonight; the rest went in the fridge for another night, probably accompanied by homemade tagliatelle. (I don't much like pappardelle anymore; it always seems too unwieldy, and the plate always looks too composed.)
This is a yummy sauce, but I wouldn't want to make this for company on the day I'm serving it. It keeps you busy in the kitchen for quite a while and there seemed to be a lot to clean up. (I also had a pot of stock simmering away, but that's just one pot and a quick clean-up.) But I think the sauce will only improve by keeping a day or two in the fridge.