Adapted from The Union Square Cafe Cookbook by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano (HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. 1994). Copyright 1994 by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano.
An often overlooked stew ingredient, duck holds up well to long, slow cooking, and it delivers plenty of robust flavor. As with most stews, this one improves over time and can be made a day in advance.
This is an ideal dish for the hearty wines of southern France. Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage, and Bandol are big enough to handle the richly flavored duck meat, black olives, herbs, and spices.
Thirty minutes before cooking, sprinkle the duck pieces with salt and pepper on both sides. Tie the thyme sprigs and bay leaves together with a piece of kitchen string.
Heat a large, heavy Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain.
In the same pot, brown the duck pieces on both sides over high heat, a few pieces at a time. Transfer each batch to drain in a colander. Pour out all but ¼ cup duck fat and reduce the heat to medium.
Add the onions and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, until translucent. Stir in the anchovies and carrots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring until the flour absorbs the duck fat. Stir in the wine and olives and increase the heat to medium-high.
Return the duck pieces to the pot. Add the crisp pancetta, thyme and bay leaves, cayenne, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes, and stock. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking an additional 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the duck is fork tender. Remove from the heat and skim as much duck fat as possible from the top of the pot, using a bulb-baster or ladle. Remove the thyme and bay leaves and discard. Adjust the seasoning, return the pot to low heat, and keep warm. If made a day in advance, you can eliminate skimming the fat. Transfer the stew to a large bowl, bring to room temperature, cover tightly, and refrigerate. The fat will rise to the top and harden, making it easy to remove before you reheat.
In a large pot, bring 1 gallon of water to a rolling boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and pour into a warm serving bowl. Immediately toss with the Parmigiano. Transfer the duck to a warm, deep-welled platter. Serve the duck and its sauce with the pasta.
"My mother taught me that food was fuel," says writer Elissa Altman. "That food was dangerous. That food was the enemy." As Altman's mother grows older, Altman is finding it difficult to get her to eat.