I like the Italian way of having a primo piatto of pasta or rice first, followed by a secondo piatto of meat or fish. We often eat like this, and for this particular evening I had planned to serve first pasta with beetroot and then smoked duck leg with orange sauce. Because I thought the flavors would work together nicely, I decided to turn this into a piatto unico and serve everything together instead. I liked the result, but it was less ‘Italian’ than what I usually make because there were a lot of flavors on the plate. So pick for yourself whether you’d like to serve this all together or separately.
Something I tried for the first time and liked was to smoke the duck leg first, and then finish cooking it sous-vide. Just like with brisket or pulled pork, this technique works very well as the smoky flavors penetrate all the way through the meat during the sous-vide cooking, and the meat turns out very tender, juicy, and flavorful.
For 2 servings
2 duck legs
zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp smoking dust
1 bunch of beetroot with greens
150-200 grams (.3 – .4 lbs) pasta, I used mafaldine
Season the duck legs with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Put the duck legs in a stovetop smoker with the smoking dust.
Hot smoke for 15 minutes.
Allow to cool off to room temperature.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Otherwise you will suck out all the juices when you vacuum seal the duck legs.
Vacuum seal the duck legs.
Cook sous-vide for 24 hours at 64.5C/148F.
Separate the beets from the greens, reserving the greens and the stems. Peel the beets and cut into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) cubes.
Put the beetroot in an oven dish and toss with olive oil. Roast in the oven at 225C/450F for 20 minutes.
Chop the stems and add them to the beets after the first 20 minutes. Toss to mix and add some more oil if needed. Return to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes at 225C/450F or until the stems are crispy and the beets are cooked.
Chop the greens.
Reserve the juices from the sous-vide bag.
Allow the duck legs to cool off until you can handle them.
Remove the skin off the duck legs and reserve. Take the meat off the bones. Discard the bones.
Chop the meat and the skin separately.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the duck skin and allow the fat to render and the skin to crisp up.
Cook, stirring, until the skin is crispy and the fat has rendered. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and pasta, and cook until al dente according to package instructions.
Now add the greens.
Sauté until the greens have wilted.
Add freshly squeezed orange juice…
…as well as grated orange zest. It is easiest to zest the orange before juicing it.
Add the duck juices from the sous-vide bag. In this case there is no need to remove the scum from the sous-vide juices first.
Allow to cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened somewhat.
Lower the heat and add the meat. Stir in the meat and allow it to heat up.
Add a teaspoon of honey and stir to incorporate it. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
As soon as the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the duck sauce. Toss to mix.
If you timed everything perfectly, the beetroot should now be nice and crispy. Season with salt to taste.
Serve the pasta with the duck sauce on warm plates, with the crispy beetroot around it.