Food Adventures

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Cinghiale is here!!!

One of my favorite things to eat when in Tuscany is cinghiale (wild boar). I seek it out and enjoy it both over pasta (usually pappardelle) and as a stew. Last summer, I enjoyed the cinghiale stew at Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco in Florence (the pasta with cinghiale was much less impressive). Cinghiale is not very common is Florence (it is more characteristic of other parts of Tuscany), and I suspect that it is considered a touristy thing to order, but that has never stopped me from enjoying this great meat.

Cinghiale has a stronger flavor than pork, somewhat gamey, but not overwhelmingly so. It is darker in color and firmer than pork, so many recipes using cinghiale include extended marinating time (12+ hours) to tenderize the meat. The marinade often contains juniper berries, which help make the meat less gamey. Slow cooking in a liquid (usually wine) over low heat also works very well. The meat becomes tender and falls apart and the flavors concentrate. The wine accentuates adds a new dimension of flavor and makes the meat taste less gamey.

For a while now, I had been trying to locate a website where I could order cinghiale since I could not find it in any meat market in Chicago. I tried Zingermann's and a couple of other websites, with no luck. Finally, a friend of mine recommended the Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas. He had ordered some cinghiale from them and made delicious pasta sauce with it that reminded me of just how much I like cinghiale.

For a while, The Broken Arrow Ranch was out of the cut I wanted (shoulder, of course). When they finally got some, I quickly put in my order. I also ordered some stew meat, chili meat, and sausages. When my order shipped a day later, I was ecstatic! It arrived the next day still frozen and I immediately started collecting recipes and trying to decide which ones to try first. I located recipes for cinghiale in agrodolce (sour and sweet), cinghiale stew and multiple recipes for pasta sauce.

I decided to go with the pasta sauce recipe first. I used the stew meat since the 4 ½ pound shoulder was frozen solid and I didn't think the two of us would be able to eat 4 ½ pounds of cinghiale in a reasonable amount of time. So, the shoulder will have to be enjoyed with friends.

The stew meat, meanwhile, made an excellent pasta sauce. Cooked very slowly with some onions, carrots, and celery in red wine and tomato paste, it turned out to have that richness I remember and the strong flavor that wakes up my taste buds and reminds me how much I appreciate strong and unusual flavors. To make the experience as authentic as possible, I made hand-made pappardelle, the perfect vehicle for the rich sauce.

I used the recipe courtesy of Gioco, where I had eaten cinghiale, but decided that my preparation was better than the one at Gioco. Maybe it was the fact that I thought Gioco's was undersalted or the fact that I like my own hand-made pasta better. Either way, this one dinner made ordering the cinghiale all the way from Texas and paying the shipping charges worth it.
And now some photos: first the pasta dough and the beginnings of the cinghiale sauce and the pasta dough tunred into pappardelle and then the finished product. Yum!!!


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