While this recipe still needs to be perfected, Charity Keita encourages Yummy readers to take it and run with it, as it might just turn out to be the dish that gets you bonus points this holiday season.
I have been working on this recipe on and off all year. I feel I’m on to a winner, although it still needs to be fine-tuned. Nevertheless, if ever there were a day I decided to compile a cookery book, it would have to be included with the tagline “the best recipe I invented in 2015”. I’m still musing on what it should be called; the obvious Papardelle with a Pulled Duck a l’Orange Ragu’, does feel like quite a mouthful though so far I have been unable to find a more suitable name.
It wasn’t until this year that I finally understood what people mean when they talk about food being “pulled”. I had until this point been completely mystified by this esoteric cook speak and was too embarrassed to admit my ignorance to my friends. The day I discovered it simply meant cooking a hunk of meat in juices for a long time and then ripping it to shreds with a fork was quite a revelation. Since then there is no meat that in my books doesn’t deserve the full “pulled” treatment. Whether it’s pulled chicken burritos, beef sandwiches or turkey tacos, I’m just convinced that cooking meat in stocks and other liquids before shredding it retains flavours and moisture, and is , to put it quite simply, delicious.
The inspiration for the dish came from Chef Dario Aloisio (Executive Chef at the Mediterraneo chain of restaurants) one evening, when Luan and I had been invited over to dinner at Casa Aloisio. Chef Dario’s recipe applied traditional Italian techniques and flavour pairings with an original twist. He took lasagna sheets, ripped them up into uneven squares and cooked them as if they were regular pasta. He then proceeded to coat them in a homemade cashew pesto and then serve them with a generous ladling of duck ragu’ (basically a duck bolognese).
My variation does away with the lasagna sheets and replaces them with some fresh flat egg pasta like pappardelle (although fettuccine will do quite fine). Although I was really taken by the pesto idea, I decided to make a spinach pesto instead of a basil one, as I felt the flavour would be less intense and would not have to compete with the crowning glory of the meal: the pulled duck a l’orange.
Duck a l’orange is one of those things that people talk about but seldom make. Truth be told, I can’t actually remember when I have ever eaten it. But I’ve always been quite fascinated by it, so decided to give it a go. In brief, what I did was cook a bunch of duck breasts in a crock pot with a chicken stock, orange juice, pepper and thyme base. After about an hour or so, I removed the meat from the pot, shredded it and then stuck it back in, cooking at a low temperature until the excess water had evaporated. The rest was simple: cook the pasta, coat it in the light spinach pesto (just enough to make the pasta look green) and then serve with the ragu’ sitting on top ready to be mixed into each individual dish by hand.
During my latest attempt at the said dish I added the amount of sugar that is required to make a traditional duck a l’orange. I can safely say that was a mistake (hence all this talk about fine-tuning the recipe). While I think that maybe a tablespoon or brown sugar helps bring out the flavour, add too much and your palate can’t decide if it’s eating dinner or dessert.
So there it is: my recipe in the making. Feel free to tag me in any instagram posts if you actually go ahead and make it… I’m looking forward to seeing if it works for anyone else!