In tune with the continuing romance of “slow-cooked” meals, the October/November 2011 issue of Fine Cooking made the convincing appeal for a “Duck Ragu.” Red wine, tomatoes, aromatics, duck legs and thighs are simmered for a long time, until rich and sweet. It’s like a dream, really.

Duck is special. It’s only an occasional treat for my family. Its flavor--dark, rich, fatty--sets it far apart from the meals I typically serve. Since I shy away from butchering whole birds, I have yet to prepare a whole duck. I can’t even fathom it, at this point. But this recipe let me use whole leg/thigh combos, which I simmered for 1 hour 39 minutes, until the meat was tender enough to fall off the bones. You can’t have it much easier than that.

My darling Dutch oven championed this meal. My dry red wine, a 2009 Valpolicella, smelled tart and grapey in the pot. Fresh sage is always wonderful. After all the simmering, I added another 1/4 cup of chicken broth and 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt. The recipe asks to “discard” the garlic cloves, which I couldn’t bear to do. I wouldn’t think you could ever convince an Italian to “discard” the garlic. Come on! The duck ragu was a triumph, very easy to assemble and simmer. And it was indeed lovely served over pappardelle.

I’ll always eat a stuffed mushroom, I’ll always make stuffed mushrooms. And I’ll always remember my mom’s prototypical mushrooms--perfect and simple with breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil. Still, I prepared the “Classic Stuffed Mushrooms,” from Simply Recipes, and was pleased to find the recipe supplied the perfect amount of stuffing, nicely minced into a paste.

The recipe asks for 2 small shallots, but less than a single shallot was enough for my 2 Tbsp. Dave enjoyed these mushrooms, but I yearned for more garlic and more oiliness. Oh well, my quest continues.

See other stuffed mushroom recipes I’ve tried in the related posts below.

PRICES
Duck Legs & Thighs (4) = $23.56
Onion (1) = .62¢
Carrot (1) = .83¢
Canned Chopped Tomatoes (28 oz.) = $2.31
Cremini Mushrooms (22) = $4.61
Shallots (2 Tbsp.) = .30¢

RECIPES: if you’ve been thinking about duck, this is the easiest way to do it; do you obsess about stuffed mushrooms the way I do?
PREP TIMES:
set aside more than 2 hours for the duck ragu; mushrooms may need an hour of assembly and baking
TASTES:
duck ragu is rich and sweet, red wine and sage become perfume; a slightly nutty paste fills mushrooms ably

Next time, I want to make the “Lemongrass and Honey Pork Stir-Fry,” from pigpigscorner.com, along with the “Farro with Broccoli,” from umamigirl.com. Sounds wonderful. Come back to my site soon to see this meal.