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Lasagna with Duck Sauce

Lasagna with Duck Sauce

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Serves 8 to 10.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a recipe in The Fine Art of Italian Cooking by Giuliano Bugialli.

The original recipe had some good ideas, but some choices were less than ideal. With a few modifications I turned a good recipe into, what I believe to be, an excellent recipe. Although I make my own pasta from scratch, you can use the dry lasagna sold in the grocery store.

Ingredients:

1 duck, 5 to 6 pounds (2.3 to 2.7kg) thawed (if frozen) and liver reserved (if present)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil for frying (not extra virgin)
1 large (340g) onion, red or yellow; peeled and chopped
2 large carrots; peeled and chopped
10 sprigs Italian (flat leaf) parsley, leaves only; finely chopped
4 celery stalks; diced
1/3 pound (150g) prosciutto; purchased in one piece and diced
1 to 2 cloves garlic
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1 28- to 35-ounce (794 to 992g) can Italian (Roma) tomatoes; diced
2 cups (476ml) chicken stock or broth, preferable homemade, but store-bought is okay
2 cups (476ml) marinara, preferably homemade, but a jarred sauce you like is okay (more for garnish)
1 box (1 pound/454g) dry lasagna noodles (or make from scratch—see Pasta From Scratch)
About 8 ounces (227g) freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions:

Cut the duck into pieces, typically four, by cutting along the breast bone with poultry shears, along the back, and between the breast meat and the leg section. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot, such as an oval dutch oven, and sauté the duck pieces, two at a time, until browned on both sides.

While the duck pieces are browning, chop the onion, carrots, parsley leaves, celery, and prosciutto. Remove the duck from the pan and add the chopped ingredients. Mince the garlic (or crush through a garlic press) and add to the pan with the nutmeg and the canned tomatoes, including any purée that might be in the cans. Add the chicken stock and then place the duck pieces on top, pressing them down into the liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for about 1 hour, uncovered, turning the duck pieces over in the sauce occasionally. Add water or stock occasionally, if necessary, if the pan looks to be too dry.

Remove the duck pieces and set aside. Using a strainer or colander, strain the sauce, discarding all the vegetables and prosciutto pieces. Refrigerate the sauce overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top and congeal. When the duck pieces are cool enough to handle safely, but still warm, remove all the duck meat and set aside. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, skim and discard the fat from the stock. Melt the stock gelatin in a large saucepan. Dice and add the liver. Simmer for a few minutes to cook the liver. Dice the duck meat rather fine and add to the sauce. Add the 2 cups of marinara. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until thickened (if necessary) to the desired consistency. Adjust for salt, if necessary.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. If using fresh pasta, it will cook in 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and dress with a little olive oil or butter to prevent sticking. (Because fresh pasta cooks so quickly, the pieces can be cooked a few at a time as needed.)

Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a 13½ by 9-inch (32x25cm) glass baking dish with a little sauce. Arrange a single layer of cooked lasagna in the dish and cover with a thin layer of sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Continue layering lasagna, sauce, and cheese until all the noodles are used (put any torn pieces low in the dish) and retain enough sauce and cheese to generously garnish the top. Spoon the remaining sauce on top of the lasagna and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Bake the lasagna for 20 to 25 minutes, until well heated through. Remove from the oven and allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

Plate and garnish, if desired, with a little additional marinara or chopped fresh parsley.