|Duck Confit Agnolotti with Wild Mushroom Sauce|
You know all those quick and easy recipes that make up a significant portion of the internet? This isn't one of them. I'm very proud of this dish because it's one of my most ambitious plates of food I've constructed to date. If you replicate it, plan on starting it Friday evening to be served for Sunday dinner.
Last month, I tried something new when I seared duck breasts. You might remember that I bought a whole bird for the dish so I had parts leftover and I decided to prepare the leg quarters in a confit. Confit is a French technique that was used to preserve food before refrigeration was invented and it involves salt curing meats before poaching it in fat over low heat. It has since become somewhat of a novelty for it's flavor.
Since I have already made several ravioli dishes, I wanted to attempt another filled pasta shape I previously had yet to attempt and thought the agnolotto would be challenging. I would call the agnolotti a cousin to the ravioli because the difference between the two is that the pasta in a raviolo is cut to form its shape on all sides but the agnolotto pasta is folded over so that only three sides are cut.
Successfully execute cooking techniques not previously attempted.
I took the confit recipe from page 183 of Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio with Catherine Young, Lori Silverbush and Sean Fri and used it in the pasta filling recipe on page 160 of the recipe guide from the Top Chef University DVD set. Furthermore, I applied my pasta dough ingredients from pages 102 to 104 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer to the agnolotti procedure I found on thekitchn.com and paired it with Chef Wolfgang Puck's mushroom sauce on foodnetwork.com
FOR THE DUCK CONFIT:
3 tablespoons kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 duck leg quarters
Black pepper, coarsely ground
Duck fat, as needed (I was able to get away with one 12-ounce container, but more may be needed)
FOR THE PASTA FILLING:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
Meat from duck confit recipe
1/2 cup plus more as needed chicken stock, divided
1 tablespoon Italian parsley
FOR THE PASTA DOUGH:
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 plus 4 large eggs, divided
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water, plus more as needed
FOR THE SAUCE:
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup mushroom trimmings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme
8 ounces assorted wild mushrooms (I used a box containing trumpets, White Beech, and Brown Hon-shemeji), trimmed and sliced
1 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Watercress leaves, for garnish.
1. Cure the duck. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt in an even layer to the bottom of a dish. Scatter half of the garlic, shallot and thyme over the salt, then place the duck leg quarters on top of the herbs. Add the remaining salt, garlic, shallot and thyme over the leg quarters then season with freshly ground black pepper. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
|Duck leg quarters before curing overnight|
2. Finish the confit. Preheat the oven to 225° Fahrenheit. While you're waiting for the oven, melt the duck fat over medium low heat in a saucepan. Remove the duck leg quarters from the cure and discard the cure. Brush off any salt and herbs stuck to the duck legs, then add them to high-sided baking dish in a single layer. Pour enough duck fat over the leg quarters to completely submerge them in the fat, then place the baking dish in the oven to slowly simmer the leg quarters until the meat is tender and can be separated easily from the bone, approximately 2 to 3 hours. Remove the confit from the oven and set aside to cool. The confit can be stored in the refrigerator in it's own fat covered in plastic wrap for up to one month.
|Duck leg quarters just about to go into the oven|
|Duck leg quarters finished in the oven|
3. Prepare the agnolotti filling. If the duck fat has solidified, I recommend putting the baking dish with the confit back into the oven at 200° Fahrenheit or cooler (if your oven has a warm setting) until liquefied. Remove the skin from the leg quarters, then pull the meat off the bone using a fork. Shred the meat similar to pulled pork. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the shallots, garlic and mushrooms then sweat, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add in the shredded duck confit, then deglaze with 1/2 cup chicken stock. Simmer and reduce until the mixture is wet but not runny. Add in the parsley and set aside to cool. Once cool, add the contents of the skillet to a blender and purée, adding chicken stock, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the filling has the consistency similar toothpaste. Remove the pasta filling to a disposable pastry bag or a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and place in the refrigerator until the pasta dough has been prepared.
|Shredded duck confit|
|Pasta filling before the purée|
4. Prepare the pasta dough. In a medium bowl, combine 4 eggs, 1 egg yolk, olive oil and water, then set aside. On a clean flat surface, place the flour in the shape of a mound, then dig a hole large enough to hold the egg mixture in the middle of the flour so that it looks like a volcano. Season the hole (called a well) with salt. Empty the eggs into the well, then stir with a fork in a circular motion, slowly incorporating flour into the wet ingredients but being mindful not to allow any of the egg mixture to spill over the sides of the flour. Once the eggs contain enough flour so they are no longer in danger of spilling over the well, add in the rest of the flour with your hands. Once the dough has become homogeneous, knead the dough by rolling it over onto itself with the heels of the palms of your hands, then turning it 90 degrees and repeating the process until it becomes tacky but not sticky, adding more flour or water, as needed. Once the dough has reached the proper texture, wrap it in plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for about 1 hour.
|Finished pasta dough|
5. Roll the dough. Open the setting of a pasta roller to its widest. Cut off a portion of the pasta dough and flatten it, ensuring to re-wrap the remaining pasta dough that isn't being rolled. Dust a clean working surface with flour and pass the portion of the dough through the pasta roller, then fold it into thirds and pass the dough through the roller a second time at its widest setting, dusting the dough with flour if it feels too sticky, as needed. Fold it into thirds again, passing the dough through the pasta roller a third time at the widest setting and again, dusting the dough flour if necessary. Adjust the pasta roller to the next thinnest setting (i.e. if the roller is widest at setting 1, switch it to setting 2), and pass through the pasta roller just once at that setting. Continue to pass the dough through the roller once at the next thinnest setting, dusting the dough with flour as required, until your pasta sheets have reached the desired thinness. (My Atlas machine has six settings, but I rolled my dough to setting 5.) The pasta sheets will most likely become too long so cut them crosswise so they are more easily managed. Once the dough has been rolled, dust liberally with flour on both sides, cover with a clean towel and set aside. Repeat this procedure with another portion of dough until all portions have been rolled.
|Pasta rolled about halfway through the settings|
6. Construct the agnolotti. Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl. Dust a clean working surface with flour and lay a pasta sheet on top, re-covering the unused pasta sheets. Cut a small home in one corner of the piping bag and pipe a line of filling lengthwise down the middle of the pasta sheet, then apply the beaten egg to one side of the pasta sheet on either side of the filling.
|Pasta filling piped onto pasta sheet with one side brushed with the beaten egg|
Fold the pasta sheet over lengthwise on top of the filling and use the egg wash to seal. Make indentations into the pasta sheet on top of the filling by pinching the pasta with a finger to form individual agnolotti pouches, pushing out any air in between.
Cut the agnolotti, first lengthwise along the pasta sheet to remove the excess pasta, then on the indentations to create each agnolotto.
Repeat this process with the remaining pasta sheets and filling until the pasta and filling have been used. Place the agnolotti on a flour-dusted sheet pan in a single layer to freeze if not using immediately. Once the pasta has frozen, transfer the agnolotti to a resealable bag for easier storage.
7. Prepare the sauce and finish the dish. Start the sauce by preparing a mushroom stock. Combine the mushroom trimmings with the chicken stock in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the mixture to 1 cup, then strain out the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stock.
While the stock is reducing, fire a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the shallots, garlic and thyme and sweat, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned, approximately 5 minutes. Deglaze with the reserved mushroom stock and reduce for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer until the sauce has thickened, then season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
Put the agnolotti into the water and boil, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the agnolotti from the boiling water once they float to the top and toss with the sauce. To plate, spoon some sauce into warmed bowls, top with agnolotti and garnish with watercress leaves.
Before I proceed with the execution of the dish, I need to review some items. First, I should specify that I used my copy of The Flavor Bible to pair ingredients which suggested pairing wild mushrooms, shallots and watercress with duck confit.
I have been considering a separate pasta dough post but have not been able to complete it because my hands get rather messy as I'm kneading the dough and then again when I'm rolling the pasta. In fact, Mrs. Stuntman took the picture above of a pasta sheet in the process of being passed through the roller. If you need further explanation on how to prepare pasta dough, I invite you to view Chef Tom Johnson's instructional YouTube video which is the best demonstration I've found. Chef Johnson's personality is a little dry but his advice is solid. Mrs. Stuntman also took the final picture of the plated dish above.
I recommend sparingly seasoning the pasta filling in step 3 and the sauce in step 7 because, as I was shredding the confit, I tasted a scrap and noticed the meat being on the edge of too salty.
The dish itself was a little rich so I might pair this pasta with a different sauce, however Mrs. Stuntman enjoyed it and requested I prepare it again.
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