Region: Italy, Liguria
Category: Pasta with Fowl
Difficulty: Easy but labor intensive
This preparation demonstrates the delicate and robust cooking of Liguria in northwestern Italy and is rich in the tastes associated with that region and the region of Lombardy. The morels, the walnut, the spinach, and of course the duck, all bespeak a kind of cooking that aspires to be eye-opening. The morels are found only during certain times of the year, and when you see them, if they’re in a supermarket or a farmer’s market, buy them and worry about what to cook later. You don’t need a lot for full flavor and to make the dish feel special. Substitute shiitake mushrooms if they are unavailable. The duck breast, ideally, should be a Muscovy duck, but use whatever is available. My favorite walnut oil is from Buellton, California, called La Nogalera Walnut Oil. Its taste is so amazing you will feel as if you’ve never eaten walnut oil before and if you’ve never eaten walnut oil before you’re in for a shocking taste. It can be ordered by visiting www.lanogalerawalnutoil.com.
Yield: Makes 4 servings
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small leek, white part only, quartered lengthwise, washed well, finely chopped
1 large garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ pound fresh morels, cut in half lengthwise if large
4 duck breast halves (about 1 pound)
¾ pound spaghetti
1 cup duck broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1. In a flame-proof casserole, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the leek, garlic, and parsley, stirring frequently, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the morels and cook 2 minutes. Turn the heat off until needed.
2. Preheat a cast-iron or carbon steel skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Place the duck breast, skin side down, and cook until the skin is a deep golden brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then turn the duck breasts and cook until firm when poked with your finger, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove the duck and place on a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Remove 2 tablespoons duck fat and juice from the skillet and add to the casserole. Slice the duck on the bias in ¼-inch thick slices. Set aside.
3. For every pound of pasta, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt abundantly with up to 1/2 cup of salt, then add the pasta in handfuls. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together, until half cooked. Drain without rinsing and pour into the casserole with the morels.
4. Turn the heat under the casserole to medium, add the duck broth, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring and tossing, until the spaghetti is al dente, about 7 minutes. Add the duck breast, parmigiano, and walnut oil and cook just enough to heat it through while tossing frequently. Serve immediately.