Accompanied by celery croquettes (known as “Rocchini” in the Valdarno area), this delicious duck is a truly exceptional dish. It’s a traditional recipe, typical to the Upper Valdarno, where it’s prepared in particular in the autumn for the so-called “Festa del Perdono” (1).
Finely chop the onion, celery, parsley, carrot, garlic, and a few basil and thyme leaves. Sauté this mixture in a pan (a terracotta one would be ideal) with the olive oil. Let it brown a little and then add the pieces of duck (2). When they’re golden brown all over, season with salt and pepper, and pour in ½ a glass of red wine. As soon as it has evaporated add the tomato. Put the lid on the pan and leave to simmer, over a very low heat, for about 30 minutes (or until the meat has become tender). Should the “sauce” dry out too much while cooking, add a little hot water.
Serve the pieces of duck on a large serving dish accompanied by the “Rocchini”, which you should heat through in the pan with the meat, before taking it off the heat. If you want to do things in style, do as they do in the Valdarno, add a good sprinkling of grated Parmigiano on top of the Rocchini”!
(1) Towards the end of the 14th century, Tuscany – and other areas – where caught up in a spiral of violence. One war followed another and it was often difficult to distinguish friend from foe. In this troubled climate, a movement know as the “Penitenti Bianchi” (White Penitents) came to life; men and women of all ages and social classes did penance, singing hymns and travelling the peninsular to preach peace and mutual respect. As they travelled slowly along the valley of the River Arno, their numbers progressively grew. Traces of this religious movement (which, however, didn’t succeed in changing local customs at that time) still remain in the Upper Valdarno with the “Festa del Perdono” (= Celebration of Forgiveness), which is still celebrated in some towns in the area with days dedicated to prayer and religious ceremonies, but also to the pleasure of good food, with dishes that have become traditional at that time of year.
(2) An important trick (valid for all stews and fatty meat) is that of removing the fat, which gradually rises to the surface during cooking, using a perforated spoon.