"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wild Boar Bolognese, or Melissa Gets Experimental

It's been a long time since I've been hunting, and a REALLY long time since I hunted boar. But last weekend in Newport I just couldn't resist.

I'm just kidding. There are bores in Newport, but you can't kill them (unfortunately).

Actually I was at the Fruitful Basket and saw a little packaged roast that said "Wild Boar". How could any chef resist? Bobby said the cut is basically like pork shoulder, responds well to "low and slow", and tastes fab with Bolognese sauce.

So I trotted back to work with my little boar roast, and readers, not only did I think to experiment with a new meat, I thought I'd top it off by trying a new cooking technique too.

Fans of Top Chef will have noticed that Hung, one of the final three contestants this season, makes frequent use of a cooking technique called sous vide. From what I could tell (from watching it on tv), it involved vacuum-sealing ingredients in a bag and cooking them in a pot of water. We happen to have a Food Saver at work--it's one of my favorite new kitchen gadgets. And so, friends, I decided to put the boar and the ingredients for Bolognese Sauce in a vacuum sealed bag, and then I boiled that sucker for about three hours.

Today I see from my research that sous vide is actually this:

Sous-vide (IPA pronunciation: [suː viːd]), French for "under vacuum", is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period of time at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. But unlike a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (Usually around 60°C = 140°F).

The method was developed by Georges Pralus in the mid-1970s for the Restaurant Troisgros (of Pierre and Michel Troigros) in Roanne, France. He discovered that when cooking foie gras in this manner, it kept its original appearance, did not lose excess amounts of fat and even improved the texture. The method is used in a number of top-end restaurants under Thomas Keller, Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon and Charlie Trotter and other chefs. Non-professional cooks are also beginning to use vacuum cooking.

Deadly botulinum bacteria can grow in food in the absence of oxygen: sous vide cooking must be performed under carefully controlled conditions to avoid botulism poisoning. To help with food safety and taste, relatively expensive water-bath machines are used to circulate precisely heated water; differences of even one degree can affect the finished product.

Thanks, Wikipedia. Especially about that last part.

My husband asked me, when I called him in the afternoon, if I had a Plan B if this meal didn't work out. I was very nonchalant--oh I suppose, I said, but I'm sure it will be just fine.

I did have the foresight to open the bag around 6pm, an hour before dinner. I wanted to reduce the Bolognese, and I figured I would keep the meat warm and add it at the end. I cut open the netting that surrounded the meat, expecting it to fall apart like pork shoulder, but all it did was sit there like a sullen grey lump. So I started slicing. And tasting.

Uh oh.

Dry, dry, dry, and not all that tasty. Certainly not falling apart. In fact, there was hardly any fat on that meat at all, or in it--just a few veins of gristle. (Der, I'm thinking to myself, it's GAME, not a grain-fed stockyard prisoner.)

I did the only thing I could do (besides ordering pizza), I minced the heck out of it and threw it in with the sauce. And I added about three tablespoons of butter to the sauce to make up for the lack of fat in the meat.

Then I presented it with a flourish to Dr. and Mrs. S, who hardly ever eat Italian. In fact, I think I've served them pasta twice, this being the second. Dr. S. devoured it (once he got over his initial reservations)--Mrs. S. picked at hers.

My backroom audience (the nursing assistants) went cuckoo over it--Peggy said she could eat it every night all fall and winter.

So I would recommend the Bolognese sauce if you like that sort of thing. And since The Gourmet Cookbook makes no mention of either boar or sous vide, you can safely follow that recipe to a happy end, and leave the experimental cooking to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


How's your wild boar been since the sous vide episode? Call me at the Broken Arrow Ranch at 800-962-4263. I may be able to help you out.
John Michon
Broken Arrow Ranch