This recipe was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005.

Duck pasta

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 boneless duck breast, about 8 ounces (240g)
1/2 medium green bell pepper
1/2 medium red bell pepper
Enough red onion to make about 1/4 cup (60g) chopped
1 small dried chipotle pepper
Black pepper
4 ounces (120g) rigatoni, penne or other short pasta
2/3 cup (160ml) milk
1 tablespoon (10g) white flour
1 tablespoon butter


1. Pan-roast the duck breast. This may be done in advance. Put the breast in a dry skillet, skin-side-down, and put it over high heat until it starts to sizzle. There's no need for butter or oil, as the duck skin will soon emit all the fat you need and then some. Reduce heat to very low and let it cook, turning the breast occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the skin is crisp and has rendered much of its fat, and the meat is cooked through but still pink at the center. Remove from heat, reserve the cooked breast, and pour off and save most of the fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the skillet. When the duck has cooled enough to handle, cut off the skin and any remaining fat, and slice the duck into thin strips. (I actually ended up using only about half the duck, saving the rest for another day, but this is chef's choice. Use it all if you're hungry, or in the mood for a meatier dish.)

2. Prepare the vegetables. Cut the red and green bell pepper into julienne strips, and cut the red onion into quarters, then slice crosswise so it falls into strips of roughly similar size. Saute them with the chipotle pepper in the skillet with the small amount of duck fat until they're soft and starting to brown, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside. (NOTE: The combination of red and green peppers makes for a striking dish and adds a bit of flavor complexity, but if you prefer, you could certainly use 1 whole red or green pepper rather than having to deal with two leftover halves.)

3. Boil water and start your pasta; while it's cooking, make the bechamel, the basic French white "mother sauce," also known as, um, "milk gravy." Put the reserved chipotle pepper in the milk, bring it just to the boil, then turn off heat. (You can use whole milk, 2 percent or skim. I started with skim and added just a drop of cream to bulk it up slightly.) In a saucepan or saucier if you have one, melt the butter over medium heat, cooking it until it stops bubbling. Put in the flour all at once and whisk until the butter and flour are well mixed. Pour in the hot milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly until the sauce is thick and smooth. Take out and discard the chipotle.

4. Reduce heat under the sauce to very low, and stir in the reserved duck meat and sauteed vegetables. When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and mix the pasta into the sauce, stirring gently until everything is warmed through. Check seasoning, put in warm bowls and serve, adding a little grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table if you like. I like.

As I mentioned, this dish, like most duck dishes, would go well with a Burgundy (or other Pinot Noir) and with dry Italian wines ranging from Piemonte through Tuscany to Umbria and Abruzzi. It was a delight with the full, still tannic Galli & Broccatelli 1998 Montefalco Sagrantino ($18.99) featured in yesterday's Thirty Second Wine Advisor.