Tuscan Autumns

What do I know about Tuscan autumns? Absolutely nothing outside of the books I’ve read and the movies/TV I’ve seen. And boy do I want to visit. I’ve been to other parts of Italy before, but there is this rustic romance about Tuscany that seems to ensnare the hearts of so many – not to mention, it seems like all the famous chefs once apprenticed there. I really need to make the sojourn and study with the greats. Though seeing how my vacation is all used up until the end of the year (counting down to Costa Rica in November!!), I can only enjoy Tuscany here, through this wild boar, in all its delicious glory.

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Wild Boar Ragu and Fresh Fettuccine
Source: Avec Eric
I made some changes to the Eric Ripert recipe, mostly to add some depth of flavor. Wild boar is pretty difficult to find, though in Manhattan I’ve been successful at Italian butchers like Esposito’s and Ottomanelli’s. Just to warn you, wild boar is leaner (and therefore tougher) than regular pork and requires a different skillset in prepping and cooking the meat. Wild boar also smells more… wild than regular pork, which may be a turn-off to many eaters. If that is the case, I would consider soaking the raw meat in water longer and using a heavier hand in terms of the herbs. I might even consider a bit of lemon zest as well. If you don’t mind the gamey smell, then by all means, enjoy the meat in its purist state, and don’t bother with the soaking step. Also, porcini mushrooms can be difficult to find (forget your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods), as they are seasonal and not all the stores carry them. I suggest a specialty Italian supermarket, or (blasphemous I know) substituting with a blend of wild mushrooms or even shitake. Shitake works in a pinch but isn’t as earthy. Lastly, the truffle oil is a great way to increase the earthiness of the dish and is a salute to its Tuscan heritage, though a completely unnecessary luxury if you don’t happen to have it.

Ingredients
1 pound wild boar shoulder, finely diced
1 Spanish onion, finely diced
1/2 pound fresh porcini mushrooms, diced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry red wine (I used a Californian Merlot)
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (plus juices)
2-3 c chicken stock (I use this chicken base)
juice of half a lemon (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan for grating (I used Pecorino)
1 pound fresh pasta
splash of truffle oil

Directions
To eliminate some of the gamey flavor of the boar, soak the diced boar in a large bowl of cold water and refrigerate at least 8 hours before cooking, changing the water periodically (every 3-4hrs or so). About an hour before cooking, drain well and pat dry with paper towels, then set aside in fridge to continue drying. This step is pretty crucial because if the meat is not dry, it will end up boiling in the hot pan as opposed to searing. When ready, remove from fridge and season with salt and pepper.

Over high heat, coat the bottom of a large pot or Dutch with extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, sear the pieces of boar meat until browned, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, and add the diced onion, porcini mushrooms, and herbs, cooking and stirring often until the onions are tender. To the pot, add red wine and allow to simmer until reduced to less than a quarter of the original liquid. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock, and reduce the heat to low, allowing the ragu to very gently simmer until thickened and flavorful. Occasionally, stir the pot and add a bit of water (by the quarter cup) if sauce is too thick. Continue cooking for 2-3hrs or until meat is very tender. Season ragu with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. This long cooking process at a low temperature makes the meat very tender, and also allows the flavors to develop. I feel (though have not tested) that this would make a great crockpot recipe. Once cooked, remove the bay leaves and thyme twigs.

Serve with fresh pasta, then garnish with a splash of truffle and top with grated cheese. Enjoy.

All

I’ve been traveling to upstate Connecticut for work recently, and the fall foliage has me (again) breathless. It makes working at a client site a bit more enjoyable. I will post up phone pics if/when I can. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this quintessential autumn dish.

Bite

Thanks for reading,
AnhD

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One Response to Tuscan Autumns

  1. Pingback: Cinghiale | Confessions from the Cookie Jar

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