You may be aware by now that I have a bit of a duck obsession. People tell me it’s gamey and greasy all the time, which only tells me that they haven’t had well-prepared duck. Duck is tender, moist, and almost sweet. When baked or smoked on its own, duck is chicken’s infinite superior. So don’t balk at the amount of duck this lasagna calls for. I used a smaller one, and it was not enough.
There is one terrible thing about making this. Removing the fat from a duck carcass and cutting the meat into bite sized pieces is a very unpleasant chore. I failed to get the butcher at the market to do it, because he doesn’t speak English and looks really upset when I try to do crazy things like order a pound of beef. I’m a very nervous person at the best of times; I can’t bring myself to make an old Chinese man sad. I failed to get Mr. B to do it, because I thought it wouldn’t be hard.
Removing the skin and fat alone took twenty minutes, and left me standing in the kitchen staring at a half-gallon bag full of duck fat. I think I got the fattest 3 1/2 pound duckling to ever live. Which is cool, because the fat is sitting in the freezer waiting to be rendered. It’s an amazing thing to cook with. But I digress. The duck sauce is adapted from Italian Slow and Savory by Joyce Goldstein, a cookbook I both love and hate. Fantastic recipes and ideas, tomatoes and pork on every other page. It’s torture, I tell you.
1 duck (5 pounds) trimmed of fat cut into bite sized pieces. (my duck was 3 1/2 pounds. Too small!)
1-2 T olive oil
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb potato or artichoke or celery or other yummy vegetable, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t herb mix (or chopped fresh herbs)
2 bay leaves
1/2 t cinnamon
3 cups white wine
2 cups chicken or duck stock
salt and pepper to taste
For the lasagna:
8 oz. lasagna noodles (enough for 3 layers of pasta in a 9×13 pan)
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Heat the olive oil in a good-sized stock pot and toss the garlic, carrots, and other vegetables in to sauté. Only sauté for a couple of minutes, just to carmelize the edges of the vegetables and make the garlic nice and aromatic.
Add the wine, stock, cinnamon, and herbs. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the duck chunks.
Lower the heat to a simmer and let the pot go from thin soup:
to thick sauce:
over the course of an hour and a half of simmering uncovered. If you are already hungry at this point, you can toss this sauce over some gnocchi or pasta. I wanted lasagna. For that, cook the lasagna noodles according to the instructions on the box and preheat the oven to 375°F.
Lay one layer of lasagna noodles across the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13 inch pan.
Spread a generous layer of ricotta over the noodles, and spoon 1/3 of the duck mixture over that.
Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the mozzarella.
Repeat until you have 3 complete layers, and top it all off with a generous sprinkling of parmesan. Bake 30-40 minutes until the top is crisp and browned.
Serve with steamed broccoli and asparagus. And more duck.
Everything is better with more duck, right?