Duck Confit Sugo
Duck Confit Sugo
Prepare four duck legs, confit-style, as described in Chapter 4 (see page 192). This can be
done days in advance and stored in the fridge. If you’re not in the mood to wait a day or
don’t have a slow cooker, check if your grocery store sells prepared duck confit.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil for making pasta.
Prepare the duck meat by pulling the meat off two legs of duck confit, discarding the
bones and skin or saving them for stock. In a pan, lightly sauté the duck leg meat
over medium heat to brown it.
Add to the pan:
28 oz (1 can, 800g) diced tomatoes
8 oz (1 can, 225g) tomato sauce
4– 2 teaspoons (0.25–0.5g) cayenne pepper
Simmer the tomatoes and tomato sauce for five minutes or so. While the sauce is
simmering, cook the pasta per the directions on the package:
pound (150g) long pasta—ideally, pappardelle (an egg-based noodle with
a wide, flat shape) or spaghetti
Once the pasta is cooked, strain (but do not rinse) the pasta and add it to the sauté
pan. Add and stir to thoroughly combine:
2 tablespoons (2g, about 12 sprigs) fresh oregano or thyme leaves (dried is
nowhere as good)
2 cup (100g) grated parmesan cheese
4 cup (50g) grated mozzarella cheese
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Cooking for Geeks
You might find it easier to transfer the duck mixture to the pasta pot and stir in
there, because your frying pan might not be big enough. When serving, you can
grate parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle on more of the oregano or thyme leaves.
The secret to duck confit sugo is in its combination of ingredients: the heat of the
capsaicin in the cayenne pepper is balanced by the fats and sugars in the cheese,
the fats in the duck are cut by the acids in the tomatoes, and the aromatic volatile
compounds in the fresh thyme bring a freshness to this that’s just plain delicious. If
the world were going to end tomorrow, I’d want this tonight.
So, what can go wrong in making this dish?
Hot or cold pan? Any time you see a recipe call for something to be sautéed, that
means you should be browning the food. Maillard reactions begin to occur at a
noticeable rate at around 310°F / 154°C, and sucrose (sugar) caramelization and
browning start to occur at around 356°F / 180°C. (We’ll cover these two reactions
in Chapter 4.) You’ll have a hard time getting those reactions to occur when putting
cold duck into a cold pan. On the other hand, you don’t want an empty pan to overheat, especially if you’re using a nonstick frying pan, which can offgas chemicals
when too hot. When sautéing, heat the pan empty, but keep an eye on it to make
sure it doesn’t get too hot. (You can hover your hand above the surface to check
for radiant heat.)
When separating the duck meat from the duck fat, skin, bones, and gelatin (the
clear gloppy stuff that’s culinary gold), how do you determine what’s good and
what’s not? Duck fat will be whitish and slippery; the meat will be darker and more
strand-like. When in doubt, if it looks yummy, it probably is. And yes, the duck
confit is already cooked, so feel free to sample the goods. Since the meat is to be
browned, you want to avoid the gelatin, as it will melt and then burn as the water
When pulling fresh thyme off the stem, be careful not to get the actual stem in the
food. It’s woody, chewy, and not enjoyable. Pinch the top of the stem with one hand
and run the fingers of your other hand down the stem, against the direction the
leaves grow in, to strip them off.
Start by gripping
near the bud
end of the plant.
To strip the leaves,
run your fingers
down toward the
base of the stem.
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