Duck and Winter Squash Ragu

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This is a simple and deeply satisfying winter dish that tastes as if it takes hours to prepare, but doesn’t.  Thanks to ready-cooked duck confit, this dish can be made in about a half-hour total.  Admittedly, not every supermarket (or gourmet market) carries vacuum-packed duck confit legs.  You can substitute raw chicken thighs for duck confit, but you’ll need to add about 30 minutes to the total cooking time.

The ragu begins with a saute of shallots and cubes of peeled winter squash. I used kabocha, but you could substitute butternut, acorn, or pumpkin.  After the vegetables begin to caramelize, add the duck confit, which has been skinned, removed from the bone and shredded.

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I also add a pinch of nutmeg and  a whole clove (or the TINIEST pinch of ground clove).  Tomato paste is then added and sauteed for a few minutes, to deepen it’s flavor.

White wine and sherry are then added and reduced for a minute.  The combination of the tomato paste and wine, forms an instantly thick sauce.  Broth is added to thin the sauce and disperse flavor while the sauce simmers and reduces slightly.

I like to serve fresh egg pappardelle with this type of ragu.  Nothing else equals their delicacy and fresh egg-y flavor.  Lots of grated parmigiano is also an absolute necessity for this dish.

Tonight, as a first course, we had sauteed broccoli di rapa with garlic, chili flakes and a touch of lemon juice.

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After the pasta, we had a cleansing salad of arugula (still fresh from my neighbor Beppi’s garden) and tangerines.

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Duck and Winter Squash Ragu

serves 4

2 fully-cooked duck confit legs

4 medium shallots, finely diced

1 small sprig rosemary

2 tbls olive oil

2 tbls butter

2 c winter squash (kabocha, butternut, acorn or simple pumpkin), peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 clove or a tiny pinch of ground cloves

3 tbls tomato paste

1/2 c sherry

1 c white wine

2 c chicken broth

2 tbls chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 lbs fresh egg pappardelle

In a saucepot with high sides, place shallots, oil, butter and rosemary sprig.   Saute on low heat for about 3 minutes, or until beginning to turn translucent.  Add squash and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes.

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 Add duck and spices.

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Saute for another 2 minutes to heat spices.

Add tomato paste and saute for about 5 minutes.

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Add wine and sherry, raise heat to high and reduce for about 2 minutes.

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Add chicken broth and reduce heat to low.  Simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until nicely thickened and slightly reduced.  Remove clove (if using whole clove). Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

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Add cooked pasta and a half-cup of pasta cooking liquid.

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Cook for another minute to emulsify.  Serve immediately.

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