You know those slightly unusual ingredients that give a layer of extra flavour and complexity to any dish they’re in?
Well, I think the porcini mushroom – Boletus edulis – is one of these, and certainly deserves its own entry on the essential ingredients page. Apart from being lovely to look at, they’re earthy in flavour, silky in texture, store well and have a cooking aroma to die for – which in my book makes them a perfect zing-thing pantry staple.
I’ve used both dried porcini and the frozen fresh variety, but the frozen seemed to have only about as much flavour as a good fresh mushroom, whereas the dried really pack a punch (if you are very keen, there’s a long discussion about the comparative flavours here).
The way to use the dried porcini, of course, is to toss them into a cup with a little water to rehydrate, and then chop roughly to throw into any ragu or mushroom dish. I use them in mushroom risotto along with other fresh ones, but lately I’ve also used them a couple of times in this very luscious duck ragu.
From what I can tell a typical Italian ragu is basically any Bolognese-type meat sauce for pasta, cooked as slowly as possible depending on the meat you choose.
I made this ragu by combining elements of this recipe from The Cook and the Chef (oh, how I miss them!) and this one from Mario Batali. Duck legs can be hard to find; I’ve made this both with fresh duck meat from the wonderful peeps at Feather & Bone and with confit duck legs from the butcher – either way it’s delicious. (If you use the confit, just shred the meat, put it into the sauce after it’s been cooking for a good hour and warm the meat through. I left it for a couple of hours to absorb the flavour of the sauce.)
This is quite a simple but decadent dish to serve when you want something fancier than spag bol. And with the addition of the mushrooms, it becomes even richer and more velvety. What’s not to love?
Duck ragu with porcini
- 4 duck legs and thighs, skin removed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 bottle red wine
- 2 x cans tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 30g dried porcini, rehydrated & chopped
- handful chopped fresh field or other mushrooms
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Remove as much fat & skin as possible from the legs & discard, then remove meat from the bones & chop into small pieces.
- Heat oil & add celery, carrot, onion, garlic and some sea salt, sauté until translucent. Add the bones from the duck.
- Add wine, tomatoes, stock and herbs and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.
- In a separate pan, heat some oil and add a pinch of salt and sauté the duck meat till lightly browned, and just cooked. Set aside.
- In the same pan, fry the chopped fresh mushrooms till liquid has evaporated, then add these and the chopped porcini and liquid to the sauce. Stir, then simmer uncovered for around 30 minutes or till the sauce has reduced by half.
- Remove the bones, add the duck meat and cook over low heat for another 20-30 minutes or until the meat is tender and the sauce is thick and rich. Add stock or water if at any stage it becomes too thick.
Serve with rigatoni or papardelle or other boofy pasta, plus grated Parmesan or Pecorino.
Have you used porcinis in other ways? Do tell …