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Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Anatra con olive nere
 +Lo Chef.
Preparation - Medium
Prep: 30 min; Cook: 3 hrs; Total Time: 3 hr 30 min min
Yield: Serves 4 - 6

The bitterness of black olives is a splendid foil for the rich meat of duck. Ideally, this is a winter dish, made with fresh, uncured olives that have ripened on the trees. The long, slow cooking process converts their acrid nature into something tantalizing and delicious. Unless you live under a California olive tree, you will probably not have access to fresh olives, so make this with wrinkled, dried, salt-cured olives for the most authentic flavor. If you do have access to fresh olives, however, I'm told you should drop a handful in rapidly boiling water, leave for about 20 minutes, then drain and use in the recipe.

The thick layer of fat that ducks carry beneath their skin, a protection against the cold of their watery natural environment, makes them unappealing to some people. Cutting the duck in pieces and browning it extracts much of that fat. But don't discard it - it's a magnificent medium for sauteing potatoes to go with the duck.

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat blade of a knife
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (5-pound) duck, cut in serving pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 12 small onions, preferably small flat yellow ones, peeled but left whole
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
  • 4 or 5 sage leaves, slivered
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup light chicken broth
  1. IF you have a spice grinder, grind the fennel seeds to a coarse powder, then pound them in a mortar with the crushed garlic and about 1 T of salt, or to taste. When the mixture is reduced to a paste, add plenty of black pepper. Rub this spice mixture all over the duck pieces and set aside, lightly covered, for about 30 minutes, or longer if necessary. Refrigerate the duck if you're not going to cook it within an hour.
  2. WHEN ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the bottom of an oval roasting dish, preferably one that has a lid, add the olive oil and gently brown the whole garlic cloves and onions lightly but thoroughly on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. ADD the duck pieces to the oil remaining in the pan. Raise the heat to medium high and brown the duck pieces, turning at least once, on all sides, about 10 minutes to a side. When all the duck has been browned, tilt the pan and remove most of the oil, leaving about 2 Ts in the bottom of the pan. Add the black olives and sage slivers, stirring to mix all the ingredients together, then add the wine. Let the wine bubble and reduce for about 5 minutes, until all the alcohol has been thrown off and the wine has been reduced by about half. Stir in the broth, add the onions and garlic cloves, and cover the pan.
  4. SET in the preheated oven to bake until the duck is done and the sauce is reduced to a syrupy liquid that coats the onions and olives - about 2 hours in all. To further brown the duck, remove the pan lid for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
  5. REMOVE the duck to a warm serving platter and surround it with the onions, garlic cloves, and black olives. If the juices in the pan are very liquid, boil over high heat for a few minutes to reduce. If, on the other hand, they've boiled down too much, add another 1/2 cup red wine and cook, scraping up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Serve the sauce poured over the duck and its garnishes.





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