Once upon a time when I first started watching Eric Ripert’s Avec Eric, I fell in love with this romantic notion of boar hunting in Chianti. What comes to mind… dignified middle aged men dressed in Barbour gear and heavy hoots, carrying dusty rifles that have seen decades of hunts. In reality – I’m not exactly in Italy, but since many parts of California share a similar Mediterranean climate as parts of Italy, so hunting in California will have to do. Also, hunting is pretty gruesome and dirty and not all that romantic. Some say it’s barbaric or inhumane, but I think that it brings us so much closer to our food. By doing it yourself, you have THAT much more respect for the food because you know where it came from, what it ate, how it died, how it was dressed then butchered. You saw its eyes as the life drained out of it. If anything, now when we kill a boar (or any other animal) and turn it into our next meal, we say a silent prayer of gratitude for its life and our sustenance. I recently read Novella Carpenter’s Farm City, and a lot of her experiences in slaughtering her turkeys, bunnies, pigs, etc. really resonated with me. It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.
A few weeks back, David went hunting and shot a 150 pound sow. She was field dressed then sent to a country butcher (shout out to Freedom Meatlocker). Two weeks later, I am brimming with anticipation and now have 60lbs of boar in my freezer. In the past, I’ve made wild boar pasta and ragu, but my first dish from this hunt was inspired again by Eric Ripert’s cianghiale dolce-forte, or a “strongly sweet” boar stew. I used a similar flavor profile for the frenched rack of boar that we had. I paired it with apples simmered in a boozy caramel similar to ChefDruck, au gratin potatoes (post coming soon), and homemade bread.
Roasted Rack of Wild Boar and Apples
Boar is a bit tricky and I’m only beginning to learn how to prep it correctly. Boar is obviously gamier than pork but also leaner. This means that the sweet spot in terms of doneness is narrow… going quickly from just cooked and tender to overcooked and chewy. This recipe is a pretty classic pairing – pig and apples. The rack is submerged in a bath of red wine and warm spices overnight to (1) remove some of the gaminess; (2) flavor the meat; (3) the acidic wine helps tenderize the meat. It is then removed, cooked on a hot grill or under the broiler and finished in the oven. The boozy apple glaze is brushed on top for sweetness and shine, and can be served as a side dish.
1 rack of boar
2 c dry red wine (I used a Paso zinfandel)
1/2 c brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
handful of black peppercorns
sea salt and black pepper
Whiskey Apple Glaze:
2 Fuji apples, chopped (my favorite, but Granny Smith would have been better I think)
1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbs butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup of whiskey (I used Sazerac Rye, which is on the sweeter side and lends itself well to a sweeter application)
splash of heavy cream
Combine the boar, red wine and the other marinade ingredients in a ziploc bag or covered tray, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Remove the boar from the marinade and season the boar with salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to come to almost room temperature before cooking.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter and sugar with the chopped apples on medium heat. Add the cinnamon. Once hot and bubbly, carefully add the whiskey and allow the alcohol to cook off. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan in case any of the sugar has crystallized and whisk as needed to dissolve the sugar. Add a splash of heavy cream and allow to simmer and reduce. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside, but keep warm.
Fire up the grill or preheat the broiler (if you plan to bake) and sear the rack. We are looking for a quick char to add a bit of smoke and lock in some flavor. Brush on a thick layer of the whiskey apple glaze, and either pop into a 375*F oven (if you were broiling in the oven anyway), or finish the meat on the grill. Finish cooking the boar until cooked through. Pork temperature reading should read about 145-150*F. I like to periodically brush additional apple glaze, but that is optional.
Before serving, allow the rack to rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices before slicing the individual ribs. Serve with a helping of the apples and scalloped potatoes.
Because of the initial red wine marinade with the cinnamon and nutmeg, this dish has some pretty complicated flavors. The boar itself has been reduced to a bright, light protein with citrus and fruit notes that paired really well with the sweetly spiced apples. I can see this being a great early autumn dish, warm spices and fruit, good for those cooler nights, cozied up with a nice bottle of red. Enjoy.
I still have about 50 pounds of boar to figure out. Luckily, I bought a sausage maker attachment for my Kitchenaid standmixer, and hope to learn the finer arts of sausage making with some of the more questionable cuts of meat. We also have a huge amount of ham, which will likely see their way into our smoker. Can’t wait to share more.
Thanks for stopping by,
PS. Haven’t forgotten those scalloped potatoes. This recipe is the best I’ve ever had/made, and I’ll be sharing that in my next post. Stay tuned!