Delicious Duck Ragu

I got a somewhat unusual Christmas present from my best friend's husband. Some dead ducks. Rob is a hunter and so he gave me four frozen ducks and a goose for Christmas. 

Now coincidentally I had been already contemplating my weekend cooking project. I was in the mood for pasta and ragu and had planned on making a pork ragu. Change of plans — duck ragu. I went home, left two of the ducks out to thaw, and threw the rest in the freezer. 

The recipe below is a combination of things from a few recipes I researched. Keep in mind that I had two wild ducks versus domestically raised ones, so they were smaller. I also had hoped to shred the meat, but ended up having to dice it. I did the stovetop steps in my cast iron skillet, but after deglazing the pan I transferred everything over to my slow cooker. The coffee adds depth of flavor. Overall though, an excellent meal in which I kept wanting to eat more but had to stop or else hit that "I feel sick" point from overeating!

Duck ragu 
- this recipe includes curing the duck overnight

2 ducks or 4 duck breasts
1/2 c kosher salt
1 T fresh thyme
1/2 t ground black pepper
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced

1 T olive oil
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 1/2 c dry red wine
2 14oz cans of tomatoes, chopped
1 t thyme
1 t rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 c of dark, brewed coffee

Day before:  If using whole ducks, cut off the breasts and the legs and set aside. Use the rest of the carcasses for stock.  In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic. Use the salt mixture to coat the breasts and legs all over. Set on a plate, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Next day: Remove the duck from the refrigerator and rinse off the salt mixture. Dry with paper towels and then set aside until the duck reaches room temperature. Use the time to chop your veggies.

Heat a large pan to high and add olive oil. (Note: Because I was keeping the duck skin on, I found it unnecessary to add oil — it's fatty enough.) Take the duck pieces and sear them in the hot pan on all sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the duck and set aside. If there is excessive oil in the pan, remove it, leaving enough to saute the veggies.

Toss in the carrots, celery, and onion. Stir and cook until the veggies are tender. Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom and sides. Turn the heat down to low. Add in tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Return the duck to the pan and simmer everything for 2-6 hours.

Before serving, remove the duck pieces and shred or dice, then return the duck to the sauce. Remove the bay leaf and throw in the coffee. Stir until blended.

Serve with a hearty pasta and good Parmesan cheese. I used campanelle because I couldn't find a good, fresh pappardelle.