Monday, February 21, 2011

Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu

When my husband accepted an invitation to go Boar Hunting in Alabama not long ago, I told him, “You better bring some back for me to cook.” As is typical, he gave me that look. You know, the one that makes you wonder if you accidentally waxed an entire eyebrow off or something. But I persisted. “Dammit, Matt, if you’re going leave us here for a week so you can go hunt Wild Boar, you’re going to bring some back for me so I can cook it and post it on my blog.”

Well, as that left no room for discussion, he arrived home with a cooler containing the iced down haunches of a Wild Boar, as requested.

Sadly, those little piggies have been lounging in my freezer ever since. You know, a boar leg is a pretty sizable hunk of meat, which not only takes a lengthy cooking time, but also a lengthy DEFROSTING time.

Being that we live in the country and are a family of hunters, we have a significant amount of freezer space. But, well, my freezers are getting full. And those boar legs are taking up more than their fair share. It became clear that one of them had to go.

I declared that we would be dining on wild boar this past weekend, and the hubs looked at me not with that “look”, but with a mixture of mild surprise and curiosity. I really think he didn’t expect me to ever get around to cooking it. But when I ran across short ribs at the local grocery last week and had a hard time finding a home for them in the aforementioned freezer, well, it was time.

Taking inspiration from The Silver Spoon, in my opinion the end-all and be-all of Italian cookbooks, I started with a soffritto, sautéing carrots, onion, and celery until tender. Then I added some seasonings (a little garlic and red pepper) and deglazed the pan with a hearty helping of red wine. I opted to slow cook the leg, instead of braising it in the oven, so I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and fitted it carefully into my slow cooker. I finished by pouring the soffritto/wine mixture into the cooker and added about four cups of beef stock (another way to free up space in my freezer).

I then let it cook away the afternoon, and when I couldn’t stand the smell anymore (yes, my nose kept leading me back to the kitchen), I rescued the leg from its cooking juices and picked the meat off the bone. Which was no small task. The boar leg is chock full of cartilage, tendons and other fatty bits scattered throughout the meat. While this was going on, I poured the cooking liquids off into a saucepan and turned the heat on high, letting the liquids reduce down by about half.
When the hubs finally got home last night, I put on a pot of water for the pasta (I just love pappardelle, don’t you?) and while it was cooking, I swirled a couple of tablespoons of butter into the sauce to make it just a little silky. A quick shave of fresh parmesan on top, and this was a meal fit for a hunter, for sure. Matt was standing over the counter slurping the noodles out of their saucy bath, and I just stood there, smiling.
One thing I might have done differently, next time I think I will roast it in the oven instead (and there will be a next time, since I still have three legs in the freezer) to get that lovely caramelized color that you can never quite get from a slow cooker. Other than that, I call this meal a roaring success. The flavor of boar meat is a subtle mid-ground between beef and pork. Not gamey, as you might expect, but rich and flavorful.

This is my submission for Presto Pasta Nights #202, which I am hosting this week, and I am also linking it up to the Italian Fest going on this week over at Seaside Simplicity

Don't forget to get me your Presto Pasta Night submissions by midnight on Thursday, and work something good up for the Presto Pasta NIghts fourth birthday bash, hosted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast next week!


Ginny said...

Looks great! Save me some...

Ty'sMommy said...

We'll make it again when you come out next, in the oven this time!

Kim said...

I've never had boar and have been curious about the taste and flavor. I'm glad to hear that it isn't real gamey. I'd love to give a go because this looks terrific.

Claudia said...

I loved how you laid down the law! We bloggers have our priorities. And, as the dish turned out so delicious, I'm sure he was glad to have supplied the meat. I always thought boar was wild pig. We have a lot of those here.

Sunshine said...

this looks soo tasty :)

Anne said...

I've never managed to buy wild boar near me but had it in ragu form at a restaurant a long time ago, was really good. Yours looks delicious, will have to hunt me down some!

Martha (MM) said...

This looks delicious! Thanks so much for linking up at my Italian Fest last week. This week it's a Mardi Gras party - come on over! :-)