The most commonly available duck meat is a white duck that is generally a cross between a Chinese Pekin and an English Aylesbury duck, a marriage that dates back to the 1870s to British trade with China.
White duck is the glistening mahogany lacquered duck you see hanging up in Chinatown restaurant windows. It is easy to cook and can be roasted whole, like a chicken. Mild in flavour and tender in texture, this the perfect breed for the novice duck cook.
There's also the Muscovy duck - which is an altogether different proposition in the kitchen. It has darker, denser flesh than the white duck. The flavour is rich and full. Not everyone likes it, as the texture is not chicken-soft like the white version, but when grilled or roasted with care and given an extended resting period to relax and soften, it’s by far the superior of the two.
Most good butchers will have duck available, as do many supermarkets.
Muscovy is particularly good for braising and I would urge you to use it, if you can find it, for the duck sauce in this recipe. Pici is a thick spaghetti-like pasta that originated from Montalcino in Tuscany. This recipe serves 6 for a starter or 4 for a main course.
1. Pulse onions, carrot, celery and sage in a food processor (or mince finely with a knife) and set aside.
2. Season duck marylands with salt and pepper.
3. Heat olive oil in a braising pan and brown duck legs well, rendering as much fat from skin as possible. Remove duck legs and transfer to a tray, keeping all the oil in the pan.
4. Fry minced vegetables gently in the pan for 5-6 minutes until softened.
5. Add wine, tomato paste and juniper berries. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Keep simmering until liquid has reduced by half.
6. Place duck back in pan with enough water to just cover the pieces. Season lightly and simmer for 2 hours until duck meat comes off bones easily.
7. Remove duck pieces from liquid. Cool slightly then remove meat from bones. Chop meat, then return to the sauce.
8. Cook pasta to al dente, drain and toss with sauce.
9. Serve with grated parmesan.
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Find other Stefano Manfredi recipes at his website www.manfredi.com.au