We’ve been a bit quiet this past week for several reasons, namely travel and work, but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been cooking up a storm during our increasingly limited free time–and we sometimes spend our evenings making labor-intensive meals. There’s something so…comforting, or freeing, or delightful about sitting at a dining room table and hand-rolling your own garganelli after hitting road blocks with a work project–especially when you realize you’re not half-bad at it. Michael even compared me to Iron Chef Italian Masahiko Kobe in the eventual speed I picked up in rolling the little squares into quills.
When you’re having a less-than-awesome day or even weekend otherwise, the little compliments like this can light your grin for the rest of the day.
Saturday was anything but inspiring to me–frustrated with work things and not feeling great on top of it, not only had poor Michael retreated to his desk to draw and avoid my misplaced ire, but we had no clue what we were doing for dinner or where we would get it. I finally sat down with our copy of Molto Italiano and found a few recipes that intrigued me–all the while focusing on fresh pasta and ingredients that I knew would pique M’s interest–and presented the options to him around lunchtime. What sold him was the duck ragu served over garganelli, as he is a sucker for all things duck-related as well as a good ragu; in fact, having duck the weekend before Thanksgiving has become a sort of tradition for us. I promised that I would take on the shaping of the fresh pasta myself if he would make it, and since our radiators make our apartment both very hot and very dry, it was a pretty easy sell on my part. Taking a quick trip to Esposito & Sons to procure duck legs and then on to Whole Foods to get the rest of the ingredients was all it took to ensure we’d have an amazing meal. It’s what I love about New York–if you’re willing to make a trip and potentially spend a little money, you can find whatever your heart desires the same day it wants it.
Making the pasta, on the other hand, was a bit of a tall order. Mario leads you to believe that all you need to make it is a dowel or pencil or pen of some sort that you use to shape the pasta, then wiggle it off to keep the shape. Given the nature of fresh pasta and its tendency to stick to pretty much anything, the initial shaping efforts were…not terribly successful. You see, you have to roll the pasta to your machine’s thinnest (i.e. highest) setting, which makes it quite delicate, and figuring out how to shape it just so in order to slide it off of the dowel/pencil/pen and not destroy the shape is a bit of a challenge. What ultimately worked for me was lightly pressing the pasta at the seal and not having the pasta adhere to all points along the pen and quickly taking it off. I may have ruined a few squares along the way, but we ended up with enough pasta and ragu to lead to two dinners and two lunches, so we were both very happy.
As for the sauce…well, aside from Michel struggling to remove the skin from the duck legs (that skin is tough), the recipe is altogether an easy way to give duck a try in your house…even if you are duck-phobic like some of my pals are.
Mario Batali’s recipe can be found here, but I highly recommend getting a copy of Molto Mario for yourself as it’s an utterly inspiring cookbook–so much so that it can pull anyone out of an inspiration-less Saturday.
And while it’s a bit late, a very happy Thanksgiving to all of our fabulous readers–here is hoping that your Thursday meals were delicious, your Friday shopping is deal-icious, and the rest of your weekend is utterly relaxing.
¡Salud! Cin cin! Sláinte!