Bolognese sauce is a beautiful thing, an unrivaled marriage of tomatoes, vegetables, spices, and meat. Traditionally the simmered-until-tender meat is a trio of beef, pork, and veal. In the hands of Craig Brady, the meat component is switched up, substituted with ground duck, then augmented with a milky duck foie gras puree toward the end of the sauce’s gentle simmer. The flavor is unbeatable, a rich, steamy crown atop a bed of made-in-house butternut pappardelle or tagliatelle.
Brady is the executive chef at Haven in Old Towne Orange. His Bolognese is featured on the menu throughout the winter months. It’s a seasonal take on a classic version rooted in one he learned when working with Joe Cassinelli, chef-owner of Posto, an Italian neighborhood restaurant in Boston.
“I wanted to twist it and tweak it, to utilize more American ingredients, and apply the technique to something different,” he explained. “My ideas started way back then, and I’ve just kicked them around for a long while. Now, I have the opportunity to do it at Haven without having to check with anybody. All these things I’ve been kicking around in the box, I can now find out their worth. It’s going very well.”
He previously held a for-year position as chef de cuisine at Haven but left in 2016 to join the team at The Ranch in Anaheim. As executive sous chef, he worked alongside Executive Chef Michael Rossi.
“He really showed me what it means to be a chef, what fortitude and focus and fervor is required,” he said affectionately about Rossi. “He is a beast as a chef – a powerhouse. He makes it go using a lot of brain power. I appreciate how he pushed me – every second.”
In April 2018, he returned to Haven, this time as executive chef, working with founder and CEO Wil Dee. Chef to add a new sentence to the acclaimed restaurant’s
Kid cuisine: His first interesting experience with food focuses on the Mexican cruise he took at age 5 or 6 with this father. Assured by his dad that they taste like butter, he ordered escargot, something that initially sounded gross and slimy to a child’s ears. He tried them and, yes, they tasted like butter, as well as garlic.
Drink of choice: He finds a nice, crisp IPA cold and refreshing in the kitchen. He says that he isn’t a booze guy.
Binge TV: Loves to watch “Great Chefs of the World” series that’s now on Amazon Prime. He says that he started watching in the late 90’s and credits the shows with opening his eyes to cooking. It features acclaimed chefs such as Alain Passard, Susan Spicer, Daniel Boulud, and Hubert Keller. He feels that young chefs should watch these episodes and see what cooking is really like.
Favorite O.C. restaurant: For guilty pleasures, he admires The Crack Shack’s clever and playful dishes. It’s the Costa Mesa eatery from Top Chef alum Richard Blais and restaurateur Mike Rosen. For a proper, full experience meal his go-to restaurant is The Ranch in Anaheim.
Book it: His favorite cookbook is Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara (Little Brown and Co., $60). His favorite pages are the last 40, with recipes for pickling, vinaigrettes, stocks, and ice creams. He thinks that this 2011 book really opened peoples’ eyes to great cooking.
Quatre epices: He uses the French spice mix in his Bolognese. The name literally means “four spices” in French. The mixture showcases ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and dried ginger. He uses it in pâtés and terrines, describing it as the natural choice for augmenting rich concoctions.
Duck and Foie Bolognese
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1/2 pound foie gras pieces
3/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon quatre epices (French spice containing ginger, white pepper, clove, nutmeg)
Pinch of salt
1/2 pound lardons, slab bacon cut into “sticks” about ¼-inch thick, 1-inch long
2 tablespoons duck fat
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic
2 cups small-diced onion
1 cup small-diced carrot
1 cup small-diced celery
Pinch of salt
1 large bunch fresh basil
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 pounds ground duck
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon porcini powder (ground dried porcini mushrooms – best ground in a spice mill)
1 cup Madeira
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 quart canned San Marzano tomatoes, run through a food mill
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
Butchers twine or sturdy cotton string
1 pound pappardelle, fettucine or tagliatelle (butternut flavored preferred)
- Place foie pieces, cream, milk, pinch of salt, and quatre epices in a blender and blend until smooth, set aside.
- In a large, wide pot, begin by rendering bacon in the duck fat over medium heat until it begins to darken and crisp up, rendering its own fat.
- Now add the garlic and lightly toast, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add onions, carrots, and celery; season lightly with salt, this will inhibit any caramelization. Stir frequently. While these are sweating, tie the basil, thyme, and sage in the butchers twine tightly. Add this and the bay leaves to the pot.
- Once onions are translucent, add tomato paste and stir. Cook until the tomato paste darkens to a brick-red color.
- Add the ground duck and season liberally with salt, pepper, porcini powder, and nutmeg. This part is very important that you stay by the pot and work it constantly by stirring and smashing with a spoon or spatula to fully mix the meat with aromatics, thus breaking the meat down into small pieces and preventing large lumps in the sauce which you do not So, you’ve really got to turn it, mash it, and stir it religiously for a good 5-10 minutes.
- Once the duck meat is mostly cooked and turns a beige color, add the madeira and reduce by 75 percent. Then add the wine and reduce by 50 percent.
- Add tomatoes and chicken broth; simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning.
- In the last 10 minutes of the cooking, add the foie cream and lower to a very gentle simmer. Fish out and discard bay leaf.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente; drain. To finish the sauce, add grated parmesan and chopped sage. Toss with the pasta spooning a generous amount of sauce on top of the pasta and topping with more grated parmesan and a sprinkle of black pepper.
Haven is located at 190 S. Glassell St., Orange (Old Towne Orange). See menu at havengastropub.com.
Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”