Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Sometimes a fun, if not a great, notion

March 8, 2015

Blame it on the weather induced cabin fever.

Dinner is served: Pork Roll Wellington, roasted potatoes, salad.

Dinner is served: Pork Roll Wellington, roasted potatoes, salad.

Or maybe it is a hyper awareness of all things pork roll. One friend is working on putting together his second festival honoring that local indigenous product and another has just released a book on the subject.

Whatever the cause, “inspiration” struck earlier this week and I just had to act on it: Pork Roll Wellington!

Right out of the oven!

Right out of the oven!

Don’t laugh (yet).

What if we dressed up this Jersey favorite pork product with some chicken liver pâté and mushroom duxelles and then wrapped the package in some puff pastry? Would it be edible? Tasty? Worth the effort?

2015-03-08 15.47.01OK. Laugh if you want, but it wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t that difficult.

I adapted this recipe for Beef Wellington.  Instead of the beef tenderloin, I used one of those cute little 1 pound “chubs” of Cases’ Pork Roll. I made the chicken liver pâté last night from the recipe linked to from the Beef Wellington page (click here). The duxelles I made earlier today so they could cool down.

As per the recipe, I mixed the mushrooms and some of the pâté together. After rolling out a sheet of puff pastry, I spread the mixture over the pastry. Having removed the pork roll from its traditional canvas casing, I then set it on the “dressed” pastry dough and rolled it up. The seam and the ends were sealed with some beaten egg and pressed together. Placing the package seam side down on a baking sheet, I set it back in the refrigerator to cook later.

Have you ever seen a "naked" pork roll?

Have you ever seen a “naked” pork roll?

Since the pork roll comes “ready to eat” you only have to bake the dish long enough to heat it through and brown the dough nicely. I put mine in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes and then lowered the temp to 400 for another 15 or so.

Admittedly I didn’t know how this would come out but it tasted pretty good. I might try adding an “inner wrap” of phyllo dough (in place of the crepes in the original) to act as a vapor barrier and reduce the sogginess of the underside of the pastry crust. My wellington stuck a little to the aluminum foil I lined the baking sheet with. A bit of oil, Pam, or maybe using a silpat should remedy that.

Give it a try. It’s a fun way to dress up an old standby.

A little slice of pig heaven.

A little slice of pig heaven.

Spaghetti e bottarga

April 4, 2014

ShadRoeBottargaSpaghetti

It was a damp and chilly Friday night, not the kind of weather one would want to sit and watch a baseball game in. Feeling a tad guilty about forsaking the local AA team’s second home game of the season for the warmth of home, I turned my focus dinner.

Since we had skipped our normal Thursday pasta dinner because of the home opener, beloved spouse and I thought a simple spaghetti aglio olio would be perfect a dinner for this Lenten Friday meal.

I was doubly ecstatic. This would give me the opportunity to try my latest experiment in food preservation: Bottarga.

Bottarga is fairly common in the countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea. Usually made out of mullet or tuna roe, it’s used in very thin slices on bread as an appetizer with wine or grated over pasta.

Doing some online research into recipes for shad roe, I had stumbled across an interesting idea: curing the shad roe for use as Bottarga.

I was intrigued.

Much to the chagrin of one of my friends, I hit up the local fish monger for two roe sets. They were large and ripe, weighing almost a half a pound each.
ShadRoeSets

Two shad roe sets, each about a half a pound.

 

 

I made up a light brine solution (1% kosher salt dissolved in water) and soaked the roe sets in it overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, I took the roe sets out of the brine, patted them dry and then coated them with a little olive oil. I prepared a small pan with a doubled over paper towel topped with a layer of kosher salt. I laid the roe sets down, covered them with a thin layer of salt and set them in the fridge.

Each day, I would check and if/when the paper towel was soaked with the fluids extracted from the roe sets, I would change it. This also gave me the opportunity to flip the sets, always setting them on a bed of salt on fresh paper towel and covered with another thin layer of salt.

ShadRoeSetscured

Salt cured shad roe sets

Once the roe stopped giving up its moisture, I wiped off the excess salt, threaded each piece with some kitchen twine and hung them in the basement to dry for a week.

They lost a total of half their weight by time I took them down, wiped them down with a little more olive oil and put them in a plastic bag and stored them in the ice box.

Tonight, I made my usual version of spaghetti aglio olio, but after I plated my portion, I grated some of the shad roe bottarga over the pasta.

WOW!

ShadRoeBottarga

Shad roe bottarga.

Just what I was looking for! A fresh, briny aroma wafted up out of the pasta bowl. The rich and comforting oil and garlic (and peperoncino) sauce was brightened by a really nice sea shore taste.

Experiment a success!

Oh…and for the investment of less than $20 in materials and about 10 days of time, I created a delicacy that sells for about $90 per ounce. The result was about $675 worth of finished product.

Mashed potato latkes

November 30, 2013

Every year when Hanukkah comes around, I pick a night to make latkes and a brisket. And every year, I swear I will not only make latkes for Hanukkah.

Similarly, a lot of people go crazy about selecting, preparing and serving a turkey for Thanksgiving and never think about it again the rest of the year.

This year, with Thanksgiving falling on the first day of the Feast of Lights, I was concerned about when I might make my latkes. Even with a scaled back crowd attending dinner this year, I knew realistically we wouldn’t be done with the leftovers until at least half-way through Hanukkah.

The first night after Thanksgiving, we finished up the leftover ravioli and sauce and meatballs and sausage. On Saturday night, we set our sights on some turkey, the end of the dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes.

MASHED POTATOES! 

Why not repurpose those leftover mashed potatoes into latkes. I could still spoon some of the gravy over them. Or top them with cranberry sauce.  Of course a dollop of sour cream is always nice.

What a great idea! And so easy to do.  They turned out great! Crisp exterior with a fluffy interior. 

The convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah that occurred this year won’t happen again for 70,000 years.

Don’t wait that long to try this recipe. mplatkes

Mashed Potato Latkes

  •          Leftover mashed potatoes (approximately 2 cups) at room temperature
  •          1 large egg
  •          ½ to 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  •          Vegetable oil

In a large bowl, sprinkle about ¼ cup of the flour over the potatoes.  Add the egg and work into the flour and potatoes. Add just enough additional flour to form a cohesive dough that is just stiff enough to be workable. Don’t overdo it.

Pour oil into a 10 or 12 inch skillet (cast iron is perfect for this) to a depth of about ½ an inch. Heat the oil over a medium flame until it sizzles when a small piece of the dough is dropped into it. (About 7 minutes).

Grease a ¼ cup measuring cup with Pam or a similar spray oil. Fill with the dough mixture and drop into the hot oil. Flatten the dough slightly with a spoon. Do this three more times. Do not overcrowd the pan.  Cook until browned, four to five minutes, flip and cook for another four or five minutes.

Remove the latkes from the skillet and set on paper towel lined platter to drain. Cover to keep them warm. You may want to lightly salt and pepper them to taste. Repeat until you have used up the dough.  Serve warm with sour cream and applesauce (or the Thanksgiving leftovers).

Makes 8 – 10 potato pancakes.

A good night for a good woman’s chicken

January 11, 2013

PouletalaBonneFemme

It’s that time of year again when my mind and tastes turn to all things New Orleans. Carnival season officially started on January 6 (3 Kings Day/Epiphany) and runs until Mardi Gras…the day before Ash Wednesday. Even as I fret about the post holiday “bloat”, I find myself planning if/when I’ll make a King Cake; who I will share Muffalettas with; when I’ll make my next batch of “Jersey Street Gumbo,” etc. My pre-dinner Negroni or Manhattan morphs into a Sazerac; the medieval influenced Christmas carols segue into the second line and rumba rhythms.

Therefore, it really wasn’t a surprise that the daily question of “what do you want for dinner tonight” was answered with a dish from the Cajun/Creole canon. “Chicken a la Bonne Femme.”

I’m told the name means “Good woman’s chicken” or “Good wife’s chicken.” What it is, is just plain G-O-O-D!

While there are myriad vTalkAboutGood!ersions of preparing this dish, we have always stuck with the recipe we found in this book:

We picked this up on our first trip to New Orleans back in 1989. We bought its sequel on our second trip a year later. We use them as much for reference and inspiration as we do for actually preparing all the recipes from them. The recipe for Chicken Bonne Femme is one we do go back to often. It’s a little labor intensive but rustic, satisfying and oh so tasty. Unfortunately, this recipe is for a company-sized meal (serves 8).

On this damp, chilly night when we were craving the dish, we sought a way to scale it down.

Using what we had at the ready, we were able to put together a very tasty rendition of this homey dish just the right size for us.

Give this a try…the “small version” for two. Add a bottle of wine and simple salad. It’s a real big easy…

Chicken Bonne Femme (for two)

(Poulet bonne femme pour deux)

  • 3/4 to 1 pound chicken thighs
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, skin left on, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 pound thin sliced pancetta
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thinly
  • Salt, pepper and red (cayenne) pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a 10 inch, ovenproof skillet, cook the pancetta slices over medium low heat until nicely browned. Remove from pan and reserve.

Increase heat to medium and in the fat that has rendered out from the pancetta, lightly brown the chicken thighs (about 3 minutes per side.) Season well with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Remove from pan and reserve.

Brown the sliced potatoes in the remaining drippings 2 or 3 minutes per side. Add a little olive oil if need be to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Remove from pan.

In same skillet, layer some of the chicken thighs, the potatoes, some of the crisped pancetta and some of the onions. Repeat layers as needed to use up ingredients.

NOTE: don’t be afraid to season the potatoes as you layer them into the pan; you can be assertive with the seasoning of this dish.

Cover the pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 10 more.

Remove from oven and plate up. Serves 2.

Mustard pie

January 9, 2013

A few years ago I was attending a board meeting of an organization I worked for. The meeting was held in the evening, right after the end of the work day so it was decided we’d order pizza.  As the group tried to decide on how many pizzas and with what toppings, I mentioned the possibility of getting a “mustard pie.”

The group was stunned. No one sitting around the table had heard of such a thing. I couldn’t believe it. Some of these folks were lifelong Trentonians. Others had been around long enough, they surely should have at least heard of this if not tried it at least once.

Nope! They hadn’t and we didn’t get any that night, either.

So what, just what is “mustard pie?”  Simple. Tomato pie (pizza) with mustard.

A plain "mustard pie" from Papa's. Note the mustard peaking out from under the sauce near the crust in the bottom of the picture.

A plain “mustard pie” from Papa’s. Note the mustard peaking out from under the sauce near the crust in the bottom of the picture.

Here in Trenton we take our pie seriously.  There is a particular, indigenous Trenton style that even has its own page on the Slice website. Basically, Trenton pizza or tomato pie has a thin but chewy crust, then cheese, toppings, sauce. Admittedly it is the pie I grew up on and, when done properly, it is the style that I crave over all others.

Unfortunately, what was once ubiquitous to this area has become somewhat of a rare delicacy. Fewer and fewer pizzerias make the true Trenton style any more. The well-known (as much for its lack of a public restroom as for its pies) DeLorenzo’s on Hudson Street in Chambersburg closed about a year ago. Their Robbinsville, NJ store carries on with mixed reviews (but I’m not getting into THAT discussion!).

The competing DeLorenzo’s on Hamilton (the original owners of both stores were brothers with a friendly, familiar rivalry) announced recently that they will be leaving the city for Hamilton Township, NJ. This was the DeLorenzo’s I brought members of the production team working on last year’s “One for the Money” film to for lunch. The entourage was made up of a native  of Buffalo, New York, a Canadian, and a Californian. They were impressed enough with Trenton pie to get permission to use the DeLorenzo’s name along with the names of other businesses for the film.

But I digress.

When we speak of Trenton tomato pie institutions we must pay extra reverence to Papa’s on Chambers Street at Roebling Avenue. Papa’s is the oldest family owned pizza restaurant in the United States!  Opened in 1912, it is still in the same family. Take that, Lombardy’s of New York City!

Stepping into Papa’s is a trip back to my youth. The paneling on the walls, the formica table tops. The decidedly delicious but seriously unpretentious antipasto.  And mustard pie!

I can remember mustard pies being around for a while but nobody really seems to know how they came about. When I asked Papa’s Nick Azzaro about it he kind of shrugged. “I dunno.”

Most people you ask, if they have heard about Mustard Pies at all, will point to a long gone place on Whittaker Avenue called “Shuster’s”.  They were definitely known for their Mustard Pie and use to fly a banner from the front of the building declaring it “The Home of the Mustard Pie.” Yet even those that remember the place and the pie, don’t know how it ever came about.

I pressed Nick a little harder. “You offer it as a special here on Monday nights. How did that come about?”

“I had this kid come to work for me. He used to work at that other place {Shuster’s} before they closed. He said to me one night, ‘You should make a mustard pie.’  So I did.”

What they do is, shape the crust for the pizza, schmear some spicy brown mustard over the crust (not a lot, just enough), then add the cheese, tomatoes, etc. It really is good. Would I want it every time I order a pie? No.  But every so often it is a very nice change.

If you are worried about a clash of flavors, don’t be. Have you ever had cheese board that had a little mustard on the sign for dipping? That worked, right?

Have you made a sandwich with mustard and fresh slices of tomato? The acid bite of the tomato and the sharpness of the mustard somehow both accentuating and attenuating each other?

That’s kind of what happens with the mustard pie.

Next time you are at Papa’s, order a mustard pie. You might just be surprised. Or, if you make pizza at home, spread just a little mustard on the crust before you build the rest of the pie. Get a real taste of Trenton-style.

A journey to discover a great snack

November 12, 2012

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

NOTE: Recipe edited to reduce the amount of oil used.

This one was tricky.

On our trip to Italy in 2011, we spend time in the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast. The Cinque Terre, (literally, the five lands) are five villages situated among vineyards and olive groves that line the rocky slopes above the Ligurian Sea, a branch of the Mediterranean Sea.

On the day we hiked from Corniglia (the middle village, high up on a bluff over the sea) back to Monterosso, we stopped for rest and lunch in Vernazza. Just before leaving town for the next segment of our hike, I stopped into a pizzeria that advertised the local specialty, farinata.

Sold by the slice, in small shops, farinata is a large pancake made from ceci (chick pea) flour, water, salt and olive oil, baked in special pans in wood fired ovens. It’s also known as socca (France), cecina (Tuscany), or fainâ (Genoa). Most often eaten by hand, farinata is sometimes served as the filling for a sandwich or on top of a slice of traditional pizza. We like it just fine straight from the oven and a couple of pieces can be quite filling. Farinata is high in protein, but gluten free. It lends itself to doctoring up with toppings or, my preferred, just eaten plain.

Good stuff!

A slice of rosemary infused farinata

This past summer, I embarked upon a quest to make my own farinata. Turning to the internet, I found numerous recipes and several videos suggesting ways to prepare this dish. About the only thing they all had in common was the basic ingredients. After that, everyone had a different take on the best way to make it.The first problem for me was, what to make it in. In Italy, farinata is baked in circular pans made of tinned copper. Some recipes suggested using cast iron skillets, some said try a rimmed cookie sheet. My first attempt was made in an aluminum pizza pan that we had on hand. It was a little too shallow to hold the thin batter without making a mess. I remembered that we had an enameled paella pan and tried that. Better. Much better.

The next obstacle seemed to be the cooking procedure. I immediately discarded the notion of doing it on the stove top, even partially, as in some recipes and one of the videos I had found. Baking was the way to go, but at what temp?

I tried high heat, but that didn’t seem to work. The farinata got a nice top and bottom crust but was either under cooked in the middle or crispy through. Trial and error led me to a process that seems to work for my pan, oven and patience. You may have to play around a bit to find what works for you, but it will be worth it.

Farinata

  • 600 ml of water (approximately 2 1/2 cups)
  • 200 grams of ceci flour (approximately 1 2/3 cups)  NOTE: make as much batter as is needed, just keep the 3 parts water to 1 part flour ratio
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary (or sage, or a combination) to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus enough oil to just coat the pan you cook the farinata in (up to another 1/4 cup) oil for the pan (use a good quality oil as it lends quite a bit of the character to the finished dish)

Mix the ceci (garbonzo bean) flour into water with a whisk. Let stand at room temperature for at least three hours or over night.

Pre-heat oven (with pizza stone, if you have it) to 475. Place the empty pan on the stone in oven so it can heat up while finishing the batter prep.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the foam from the top of the mixture. Stir chopped rosemary, salt, fresh ground black pepper, olive oil into batter. Mix well.

Add enough olive oil to pan to cover the bottom, swirl to coat evenly. Return the oiled pan to the overn and let it heat for just one minute.

Stir batter very well one more time, pour into hot, oiled pan. Immediately reduce heat to 350 and bake for 20- 25 minutes, turning pan once or twice for even cooking. Top should just be turning golden.

Kick on the broiler (high) and broil until top is a deep golden brown (turning once or twice to make sure it cooks evenly).

After about 7 – 10 minutes, removed from oven and sat on rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Gently loosen edges and bottom of farinata. Remove from pan and serve.

This will make a 12 inch diameter farinata that is a nice snack for four to six people. Served with a small salad, it could make a nice light meal.

One potato, two potato

October 28, 2012

A simple potato soup makes a comforting dinner

Faced with dire forecasts of a record breaking storm, we tried to figure out what foods we could prepare that were as comforting as they were nourishing.

With a good supply of local potatoes recently purchased at the Trenton Farmer’s Market, I figured we’d do some soup.

All was good until it came time to start the process. I couldn’t find the recipe I was looking for but, really, how hard is it to make potato soup.  A little stock, a little seasoning. A thick slice of rustic bread, toasted and topped with just a bit of cheddar cheese, a salad and to wash it all down, a glass of Guinness.

Simple Potato Soup

  • 3 pounds (approximately) potatoes, peeled, cut in 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 quart (approximate) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooked, crumbled bacon for garnish

Place the cut up potatoes in a large enough pot that will accommodate them. Add the stock to full cover the potatoes (add a little water or more stock if need be). Over medium low fire, bring the stock to a soft boil and cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are cooked through. Using an immersion blender or, working in batches, a food processor, blend the potatoes into the stock until they are a nice, velvety consistency. Add the milk and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well and let sit on low flame for a few minutes more. Serve in bowls garnished with crumbled bacon.

It’ll take your mind off the weather outside.

It’s always time for pork roll

September 2, 2012

The Trenton area was put into a state of high alert earlier this summer. Venerated local company Case’s Pork Roll had a fire at its Washington Street facility.  Production was halted for several weeks while the clean-up and repairs were made.

Pork roll, if you don’t know, is regional specialty made from ground pork shoulder, seasoned, stuffed into a casing, cured and smoked. It’s a staple at cookouts all summer long.

Along with Taylor Provisions, Case’s is the last company actually making the product in Trenton. And both have their loyal folowers (think Chevy/Ford or Coke/Pepsi).

Anyway, pork roll (also known as Taylor Ham in some parts of the state) is versatile favorite.

A nice slice grilled and added to a grilled beef patty along with some melted provolone cheese and a thick slice of perfectly ripe jersey tomato satisfies like no other burger.

A couple of slices of pork roll, notched so they won’t “cup”, and fried off in a skillet or on the griddle makes a great breakfast meat to go with eggs and some homefried potatoes.

Perhaps the apex of the pork roll food pyramid is the pork roll egg and cheese sandwich.

Long before the egg mcmuffin and its legion of fast food imitators, this simple treat was standard fare at coffee shops, diners, food trucks and luncheonettes throughout the area.

Pork roll, egg and cheese sandwich

  • two, 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick slices of pork roll
  • two eggs
  • two slices sharp provolone cheese
  • one kaiser/hard roll
  • butter or oil for cooking the eggs
  • salt and pepper

In a small skillet or a griddle over medium high heat, cook* the pork roll slices until just starting to brown (about 2 or 3 minutes). Turn slices over.  If there is room, cook the eggs just until the yolks are no longer runny while the pork roll is finishing. If there isn’t room, just finish the meat and set aside but keep it warm while cooking the eggs.

Slice the roll open and lightly toast.

Lightly butter the roll if desired, layer the eggs, cheese and pork roll onto the bottom of the bun. Top, press down. Enjoy.

(serves 1)

Simple and comforting, the pork roll egg and cheese joins the pepper and egg and the salame and egg in the trinity of anytime sandwiches. They’re great for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. They are a favorite for a late night snack.  Done well, they will comfort a hangover and cure homesickness in New Jersey expatriates.

Mushrooms and Peppers

August 23, 2012

One summer night we were dining at the late, lamented Cesare’s Cafe here in Trenton.

We’d placed our order and were relaxing with our drinks and enjoying small talk when, out of the kitchen, came Cesare himself. He was carrying a sizzling platter of sauteed mushrooms and hot peppers. “From the garden!” He said, as he placed the platter on our table.

Every table in the dining room got one of those platters that night. That’s the way Cesare was. It was that touch of “home.” Like having dinner at your grandparents house in the ‘Burg. It’s what made the place a favorite and why we miss is it so.

I’m a huge fan of mushrooms. And peppers. Especially hot peppers. The idea of cooking them up together is not foreign to me. They make a nice side/topping for a sizzling steak or some roasted chicken.

Served on their own, with some bread for dipping into the flavor infused olive oil….! What better way to start a meal?

Cesare’s, unfortunately, is long gone. You can find this dish on the menu at Rossi‘s…perhaps the “old ‘Burg’s” remaining hold out.

Or you can make it at home.

Right now, while the local peppers are in abundance in backyard gardens and farmers’ markets, is the time to do it.

So simple. So good.

Mushrooms and Peppers

  • 10 ounce package of fresh mushrooms, preferably brown (crimini, baby bellas) but white will do. Wipe them clean but leave whole, only removing the hardest ends of the stems.
  • 4 to 8 fresh, locally grown hot peppers (pick your favorite or go with what is available from your garden or the market), cut into 1 inch pieces or left whole; stemmed; seeded if you want/need to control the heat.
  • 4 cloves of garlic. Three peeled and whole, one peeled and minced.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil plus more for “drizzling” if needed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • several slices of good bread for dipping and sopping.

In a 10 inch skillet, warm the 1/2 cup of olive oil and whole cloves of garlic over medium/medium-high heat. Let the garlic color (and flavor the oil) but do not let it burn!  (about 5 minutes)

Remove the garlic and add the peppers. If the peppers are of medium to thin walled (banana or cayenne types), cook for two minutes. If thicker, cook just until they start to color and soften.

Add the minced garlic.

Add the mushrooms and stir. Sprinkle lightly with salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Stir to mix well.

Cook until mushrooms and peppers have softened but don’t let them become mush (3 to 4 minutes). Stir as needed.

Remove from heat, place in platter to serve. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if needed.

Serve with bread for sopping.

Serves 2 as an appetizer, 1 as a light lunch.

Ragù di cinghiale in polenta

April 22, 2012

Polenta with wild boar sauce

I don’t know why, but when I ran across a wild boar “mini-roast” at a local market, I had to buy it.

Let’s blame it on the trips to Italy, the reading up on Italian cuisine and culture. I just knew I could make something really good out of this piece of meat.

The experiments began. My first attempt was palatable, but not quite what I was looking for. Eager to hit the mark, I pressed on.

I think I have hit it. The recipe below is the latest version. And I admit it is but a mere representation of the process. You have to taste. You have to imagine. You have to adjust. Use the best of what you have on hand. Go for it. The worst thing you can say is that you know what to do differently next time.

The recipe below should serve four hungry people nicely. Maybe six “normal” people.  It is easily scaled up to serve more if need be.

Wild Boar Ragu

  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 LB wild boar*, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 3 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 T fresh oregano
  • 6 – 8 fresh sage leaves 1/4 pound pancetta diced
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 large onion 4-5 cloves garlic 1/2 cup carrots, finely diced 1/2 cup sweet pepper 1/4 cup Vin Santo or Brandy 1 14 1/2 oz can chicken stock or more, as needed 6 – 8 ounces red wine
  • seasonings: kosher salt, coarsely ground pepper
  • 2-3 T tomato paste, as needed

Prep ingredients: lightly toast fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, set aside.

Strip leaves from rosemary sprigs, set aside.

Strip leaves from oregano stems, set aside.

Remove sage leaves from stems, set aside.

Place fennel, red pepper, rosemary, oregano and sage in mini-chopper, food processor, blender or chop finely by hand. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper (if using mechanical device, throw whole black pepper corns into mix).

Sprinkle diced boar meat with just enough seasoning mix to cover. Toss with hands. Add some more spice mix. Toss. Repeat until meat is just nicely covered with seasoning set aside in non-reactive bowl for up to 1/2 hour at room temperature. Longer if in refrigerator.

Put pancetta in a heavy stock pot or sauce pan and render out fat over medium low heat.

In the meantime, finely dice the carrot, sweet pepper and onion.

When the fat has rendered out of the pancetta, remove the meat from the pan set aside.

If need be, augment fat in pan with up to a tablespoon of olive oil. Let come up to temp.

Turn heat up to medium and brown off seasoned boar meat in batches. Do not overcrowd pan.

When all meat is browned, deglaze pan with brandy or vin santo. Be careful regarding the alcohol and the open flame.

Add carrots to deglazed pot and stir. Let cook, stirring often, until slightly softened and just browning. About five minutes.

Add onion and pepper to pot. Stir often until softened. About 10 minutes

Smash and chop garlic, add to pot once vegetables are softened.

Stir and cook for 2 -3 minutes.

Make a spot in the center of the pot and add 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste. Let brown for just a moment and then stir to mix into vegetables.

Add reserved meat and any juices back into pot. Stir to mix thoroughly.

Adjust heat to medium.

Add red wine. Stir and let alcohol cook off and wine reduce.

Add stock. Stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat until just simmering, partially cover and let cook for an hour. Check frequently. Adjust heat downward if necessary; add stock if needed to keep mixture loose.

This mixture should simmer slowly covered until the meat has fallen apart into shreds and the sauce thickened. Shoot for a minimum of two hours, five to six is better. If you have to add liquid, use a flavorful stock and/or more wine.

About 15 minutes before you plan to serve, check for seasonings and adjust as necessary. If the ragu is a little too thin, add another tablespoon or so of tomato paste. Stir and cook to desired consistency.

Serve over polenta, tagliatelle, or maltagliati.

*d’Artagnan produces wild boar roast which can be found in higher-end grocery stores or ordered from the web at http://www.dartagnan.com/51346/565651/Wild-Boar/Free–Range-Wild-Boar-Mini-Roast.html They also sell wild boar shoulder and wild boar stew meat.

And if, like me, you had the question about “wild boar” being processed and available in a supermarket, the d’artagnan website explains it this way:

Lean and full flavored, D’Artagnan free-range wild boar bears little resemblance to traditional domesticated pork.

First of all, our wild boars are actually wild. Humanely cage trapped in Texas then brought to USDA-inspected processing plants, where they are thoroughly examined. The wild boars take foraging seriously. They eat greens, native roots, acorns, and pretty much any agricultural crop they can access. As a result, farmers and ranchers in Texas are fully supportive of the law that encourages hunters and trappers to cut down on the population of these nuisance hogs. This works to your advantage, because even in a state as large as Texas, they can’t eat all the wild boar!

Robust enough to stand up to a strong red wine, as well as sauces and rubs, wild boar meat offers a distinctive taste—lean, and pork-like, but more intense, with darker color and tighter grain. Their wild-foraged diet contributes to the unique flavor.

Simply marinate lightly with a balsamic vinaigrette and skewer with sweet peppers, porcini mushrooms, and Vidalia onions for an incredible, easy- to-prepare grilled feast. Also makes a lovely replacement for the other white meat in pork stews, soups or chili.

Truly wild

Natural foraged diet of grass, roots, nuts, fruits, acorns and grains

No hormones

No antibiotics

USDA inspected

Still squeamish? I suppose you could use a boneless boston butt and scale the recipe as required.

Polenta

  • 1 1/3 cups polenta (corn meal)
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup half/half
  • 1/3 cup grated cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Throw in the bay leaves and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, salt the water to taste.

Increase heat to get a nice boil.

Slowly whisk in the cornmeal until you have a smooth porridge.

Stir often enough to keep the grain from sticking and burning and until you have thick, almost gelatinous mass. (30 – 45 minutes depending).

About 10 minutes in, stir in 1/4 cup of the half and half.

Twenty minutes in, stir in another cup of half and half.

When the polenta is pulling away from the sides of the pot, remove from heat. Stir in the butter, parmigiano and black pepper to taste.

Spread on a serving platter. Top with ragu and serve.