Friday, November 30, 2007

Duck and Mushroom Pasta in the Style of Carbonara

How's that for a name? After a cold day and not so good lunch a comforting dinner was in order, but a trip to the store was not. So in an endless quest to make sure nothing goes bad in the pantry and fridge (and to use Plum Creek Poultry's great eggs), this is what I came up with. It's fettuccine, duck confit, reconstituted dried morels, and an egg/parmesan sauce. I would have used cream instead of the egg sauce, but I didn't have any, and I'm glad I didn't. Here it is:

- Duck confit, shredded*
- Morels, soaked cut in half**
- Eggs
- Parmesan, grated (pecorino)
- Pasta (fettuccine worked well here)
- Sage, chiffonade
- Salt and pepper
- Butter
- Cook pasta
- While pasta is cooking saute mushrooms in butter with salt and pepper
- If you started with dried mushrooms, once the mushrooms are cooked and just slightly browned add the water you used to soak them (as noted below)
- Once mushroom water is cooked down, or when mushrooms are cooked if you're not using the liquid, add sage
- Separately stir together nearly equal parts parmesan and egg
- Add cooked pasta to mushroom mixture and also add shredded confit
- Stir well and then turn heat way down (or off)
- Add egg mixture and a season to taste, stirring well until mixture firms up (Keep in mind that the eggs will keep cooking for a little bit, but not too much, when you're serving.)

It's a satisfying cold weather meal. Any roasted poultry could be substituted for the confit (quail works great--also available from Plum Creek), and I imagine most mushrooms could be substituted for the morels, but since dried morels are just about always available, I'd try to get those.

* Duck confit - There are lots of duck confit recipes on the web, so I won't spend too much time here discussing mine, which is a mixture of the ones I've seen. I sprinkle duck legs with these Herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper, and layer the legs in a to-be-covered plastic container with a few garlic cloves (cut in half) mixed in there. I leave that in the fridge overnight, and the next day brush the mixture off (but not too well) saving the garlic cloves. I then submerge the legs with the garlic in rendered duck fat (That's a whole 'nother blog entry, and getting a good quantity of duck fat around here has become tricky--it wasn't just a few years ago), in an uncovered sauce pan, and place in a 225-250 degree oven until they're just about to the tenderness I want. I then remove the duck legs and strain and reheat the fat (on the stove or in the oven) to get any water/duck juice moisture out of it (The garlic cloves left in the strainer may be the best things ever.). I then pour the (hopefully) water and juice free fat over the legs to cover (If the fat's not pure things get a little ugly in storage.). If there's leftover fat it's not hard to find a way to use it. The legs keep covered in fat in the fridge for a longer time than it should take you to eat them.

** Morels - I love them, fresh and/or dried. There are good reasons to enjoy these mushrooms dried, most notably, because they're seasonal (and the flavor is intense). I was lucky to move from one area plush with morels (the Pacific Northwest) to another (shockingly to me, the Midwest--there are tons in Ohio and Michigan). With the fresh ones, before cooking I like to soak them in lightly salted cold or room temp water. It's just how I learned to do it, and it also drives out the worms that love to hide in the honeycomb-like mushroom. With the dried ones, I reconstitute them in hot salted water in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. The plastic wrap keeps the moisture in so you don't have to weigh down the mushrooms, but I still turn them over a few times to keep the soaking even. (This technique also works with porcinis, which I've never had the chance to enjoy fresh.) Please, save the water and somehow incorporate it in the dish, i.e. the sauce or braising liquid with meat, the cooking liquid with risotto, or just with the cooking mushrooms themselves. Also, note that morels are great with milk fat, either cream or butter. This is the time to use either one (or both) liberally. These mushrooms are a real treat, just be sure to cook them--I don't think raw is the way to go with this one (see here).

Here's another shot:

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