Food Adventures

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Wild Boar (take 2)

The second cinghiale recipe I made on Saturday is a stew common to the Maremma area of Tuscany. Before I discuss the recipe and my notes on it though, a short geography lesson is in order.

Maremma is the southwestern part of Tuscany, including the coastline and the town of Grosseto. It is famous for chestnuts, wild mushrooms, and game since much wild life lives in the mountains and hills. More recently, the Maremma has also become popular as a wine-producing region (more about that in a different post). The town of Grosseto is one of the most famous places for wild boar in all of Tuscany and the recipe below is one of the traditional ones.

Cinghiale alla Maremma (stewed wild boar Maremma-style)
(recipe modified from A Culinary Traveler in Tuscany: Exploring & Eating off the Beaten Track by Beth Elon; The Little Bookroom, 2006.)

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs rosemary
2 pounds wild boar shoulder, cubed
1 ½ cups red wine (Chianti or other wine made in the Maremma area)
1 14-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
20 black olives, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil and the rosemary in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add meat and brown well on all sides. Add salt, pepper, and wine. When the wine is reduced to about half, add the tomatoes, lower the flame and simmer covered for about 2 ½ hours, until the meat is very tender. Add the olives, taste for salt and pepper and serve over polenta.

8-10 cups water
2 cups coarsely-ground polenta (found in the bulk section of grocery stores)

In a heavy pot, bring water to a boil, add salt and slowly whisk in polenta (to avoid lumps). Lower heat and simmer slowly for about 3 hours. If polenta dries out too much and is in danger of burning, add a little more water throughout the cooking.
Cook's Note: most recipes for slow-cooking polenta say to cook it for 40 minutes. This is not nearly enough. The polenta might be o.k. to eat after 40 minutes, but the flavor really develops after at least 3 hours. I am grateful to Bill Bufford (the author of Heat) for confirming my intuition about polenta; in the book, he explains that in restaurant kitchens the polenta cooks for hours. This encouraged me to try the ‘put it on the stove and forget about it’ approach, which works beautifully.

The recipe is perfect for Saturday or Sunday dinner: you can put both the sauce and the polenta on the stove in the mid afternoon and enjoy the fantastic smells for hours while you’re doing other things.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cinghiale (wild boar)

When Chicago looks like this (picture taken on Friday), there is only one thing to do—cook wild boar! And that’s exactly what I did on Saturday. I cleared my schedule for the afternoon, consulted my trusty cookbooks for new recipes to try and the cooking fun began.

The first recipe was for pappardelle with wild boar sauce by Duccio Bagnoli’s recipe from the Apicius cookbook Innovations: New Appetites in the Tuscan Kitchen. Duccio (who was my instructor in the two courses I took at Apicius in the summer of 2007) offers a variation on the traditional Tuscan recipes for wild boar pasta sauce. Wild boar pasta sauce is usually tomato-based and made with red wine. Duccio’s sauce uses no tomatoes and uses white wine instead. All of this sounded intriguing and despite some misgivings I had while cooking, the sauce didn’t disappoint!

Pappardelle al Cinghiale (modified recipe)

1 ½ pounds of wild boar shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup white wine vinegar

Combine all the ingredients and marinate meat for at least 4 hours in the fridge.

Marinated wild boar
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped finely
1 celery stalk, chopped finely
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
2 juniper berries
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. flour

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and sauté the onion, carrot, and celery until soft. Add crushed juniper berries. Add the marinated meat (without any of the marinade) and brown well on all sides.

When the meat is browned, add the wine and increase the heat to evaporate the alcohol from the wine. When the alcohol has evaporated (when you can’t smell it if you lean over the pot), add the chicken broth and a little water. Lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours, adding more water if the sauce becomes too dry. Enjoy the sauce over fresh pappardelle.

Cook's notes: Because the sauce does not have tomatoes, it tastes clean and you can really taste the wild boar. It really lets the meat shine. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it out by adding some of the pasta cooking water.
Order wild boar online from the Broken Arrow Ranch

This is the second year that I have bought wild boar from them and it has been excellent. I order shoulder since this is a good cut for stewing.

Labels: ,