Braised duck, Valpolicella, tomato and rosemary with polenta


  • Serves 6 people

  • 1 free-range duck (about 2kg)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 375 ml Valpolicella (see note)
  • 800 gm canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Pinch of finely grated nutmeg
  • ½ cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • To serve: soft polenta
  • Brine
  • 300 gm fine sea salt
  • 275 gm (1¼ cups) white sugar
  • 5 juniper berries, coarsely crushed
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
01   For brine, bring ingredients and 1.5 litres water to the boil in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve, then set aside to cool completely.
02   Place duck snugly in a non-reactive container, pour over brine to completely cover. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
03   Remove duck from brine (discard brine) and pat dry with absorbent paper. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, cook duck, breast-side down first, then turning until fat renders and duck is golden (3-5 minutes each side). Remove duck (reserve fat) and set aside.
04   Heat 30ml duck fat in a large casserole over medium-high heat, add vegetables, garlic and rosemary, stir occasionally until tender (5-7 minutes). Add wine and simmer until reduced slightly (2-3 minutes), then add tomato, bay leaves and nutmeg and season to taste. Add duck (duck should be submerged), cover with baking paper, then with a lid, and cook over low heat, turning duck and skimming fat occasionally until duck is tender and almost falling from the bone (2-2½ hours). Cover and set aside to rest (30 minutes). Remove duck from braising liquid, then, when cool enough to handle, coarsely shred meat (discard bones, skin and sinew) and return meat to sauce. Season to taste, stir through parsley and serve hot with soft polenta.
Note Valpolicella is a light red wine from the region of the same name, typically made from corvina Veronese, rondinella and molinara grapes.

This recipe is from the May 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
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