As you can see from the pictures above, we escaped Warwick last week for a few precious days of sun and sand. We ate wonderful, summery food on Grand Cayman Island, mostly prepared by me. And then, we returned to the deep freeze!
As the plane landed at JFK and I saw the bleak landscape, I experienced an overwhelming craving for pappardelle pasta with a rich, clingy, unctuous, slightly tomatoey mushroom sauce.
This was an inconvenient craving because I can neither get duck legs, whole duck, nor pappardelle locally. Undaunted, I forged ahead.
Before deplaning, I ordered some ridiculously expensive imported pasta on Amazon. I’d briefly considered making the pasta myself, but my craving was for the texture of dried, pasta, no eggs. I love homemade pasta, but that wasn’t the texture I wanted here. And let me tell you, I will order it again, it’s that good.
The next morning, I sent Bob to Belvale Market, where I knew he could get duck breast. Yes, he had several hundred emails in his inbox and dozens of phone calls to return, but he fully understood the importance of this urgent mission.
Then, I set about researching the issue of breasts rather than the more melting, succulent legs of duck for such a dish. I found little on the interwebs. I spoke at length to Brian, who rightly pointed out that this dish should rightly be made with confit. But I remained determined and was prepared for failure.
The resulting experiment was such a success, I had to write it up here. Plus, Meg asked. As did several friends on the ATK page. The sauce is velvety, rich, and very ducky. The combination of sauce and the wide pasta embodies the the succulence of my fantasy.
Was it better than a sauce made with confit? Probably equal. And, I can make it any time I want. And now, so can you!
Duck Pappardelle with Ducky Broccolini
1 whole medium duck breast, halved
1 onion, sliced
2 small carrots, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
12 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1/3 cup dry white wine
12 oz pappardelle
2 small bunches broccolini, trimmed, washed, and dried
Lots of fresh parmesan and chopped fresh parsley (optional) for serving
For the sauce:
Score the skin of the duck in cross hatches. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a cold 9 inch skillet skin side down over medium heat. Sauté 15 minutes or so, until skin is golden and crisp. Turn and cook 3 minutes. Remove duck to a plate to cool.
Pour off and reserve all but 1 tbs fat. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery over medium heat in the duck fat, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables just soften, 5-6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Break up the tomatoes with your hands or with a knife. Add them and the wine, bring to a simmer.
Remove and save the skin from the duck. Nestle the breasts into the simmering sauce, and cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes or so at a bare simmer, until the breasts are cooked through. Take the breasts back out of the sauce and shred the meat with two forks. Add back to the sauce.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of boiling water to boil and salt liberally. Cook the pappardelle until just tender. Drain, reserving a cup of cooking water. Toss the pasta with 3/4 of the sauce, adding cooking water if needed to coat all the pasta. Serve the remaining sauce in a nice bowl on the side. Top the dressed pasta with lots of parm and a sprinkle of parsley.
For the broccolini:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place the broccolini on a sheet pan and drizzle with as much of the reserved duck fat as you dare. Add salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread the broc out on the pan, leaving a corner open. Cut the reserved skin into small dice and place in the clear corner. Roast the broc and skin for 10-12 minutes or until the veg are just tender and the skin is crisp and brown.
Serve the broccolini topped with crispy duck skin. Write a letter of apology to all the other vegetables you have ever or will ever eat.
Blog note: The post is dedicated to my beautiful, brilliant daughter, Megan McGrath, who recently completed the heroic tastk of finishing her Master’s Thesis. And who will LOVE this recipe.