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Cooking: In Praise of Braising

This slow-cooking method is sure to make any duck or goose dish tender and delicious
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By Scott Leysath

Braising a duck or goose for several hours at low temperature in a shallow bath of red wine, herbs, and vegetables will make it as tender and moist as a properly cooked beef pot roast. Even the leanest 
diving duck can be transformed into something that will please almost any palate. 

Braised meats are first browned and then placed in a pan or skillet with a complement of carrots, celery, onion, and sturdy herbs like rosemary or sage. An inch or so of liquid such as wine or stock is added to the pan, which is then topped with a tight-fitting lid. It is essential that the lid be snug to keep the moisture in, allowing the steaming liquid to break down the meat and infuse the flavors of the vegetables and herbs. 

Braising can be done in the oven or on a stovetop, but the temperature has to be low—the lowest setting on the burner or about 325 degrees in the oven. The process can't be rushed by cranking up the heat. 

The cooking takes hours, not minutes. The reserved liquid makes a savory sauce to serve over the duck and warm pasta.

Wine-Braised Duck or Goose

You can use either breast fillets or quartered ducks and geese. The number of birds you use will depend on the size of the birds and the number of guests you plan to serve. Be sure to make enough for everyone. I doubt you'll have any leftovers.
Preparation Time: 20−30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 1/2−3 hours
Serves: 6−8
 

Ingredients

  • Ducks or geese, quartered or filleted
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Carrots, celery, and onion; each cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2−3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4−5 cloves garlic
  • Red wine
  • Flour
  • Cooked warm pasta
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley, minced

Directions

  1. Season the ducks or geese liberally with salt and pepper. Then heat a few tablespoons each of butter and olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Place the duck or goose meat in the pan and brown evenly. 
  2. Add a splash or two of wine, and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Mix in bay leaves, rosemary, and garlic. Add more wine to cover the meat in an inch or so of liquid.
  3. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Let the pan simmer on low heat on the stovetop or place it in a preheated 325-degree oven (if the pan is oven-safe).
  4. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour and continue to whisk until the mixture (roux) is light brown. Set aside.
  5. After 2 hours, check the meat for tenderness. Make sure there is at least 1/2-inch of liquid in the pan. Add wine as needed. 
  6. Once all the meat is tender, remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Return the pan with the liquid to the stove and heat over medium heat. Whisk in reserved butter and flour mixture and cook while whisking for 2 to 3 minutes. Return meat and vegetables to the pan.
To serve, place the cooked pasta in bowls or on plates. Spoon the meat and vegetables over the pasta and top with cheese and parsley. 

Wines for Cooking Use drinking wines for cooking. Bottles labeled "cooking wine" taste like rubbing alcohol blended with bad grape juice and should be avoided. Leftover partial bottles of inexpensive table reds like burgundy will work fine for braising ducks and geese, and by using them you can save your money to buy a better wine to enjoy with the meal. A good peppery zinfandel would go well with this dish.




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