I think I learned the true meaning of adventurous cooking the day "Boris the Boar" came into my life. It was the beginning of several exciting days.
A little background might explain how I came to acquire a sizable piece of wild boar. The saga actually began when three members of my informal food and wine group returned from a culinary tour of Italy with, among other things, a recipe for Cinghiale in Colceforte (Wild Boar in Sweet and Sour Chocolate Sauce).
Their trip became the obvious theme for our once-a-year joint dinner with another informal wine group. And what would make a better entree than the aforementioned recipe? Especially since it had already been successfully prepared in The Times' Test Kitchen using a beef pot roast.
The wine group learned of the menu at one of their regular meetings, and a member's guest volunteered to produce a boar for the recipe. With trepidation I agreed to test the recipe if they would get me five pounds of boar. Based on the success of the test, we would then either request additional boar to prepare the recipe for the entire group, or we would settle for the previously tested pot roast.
That was my plan as I stopped to pick up the boar on my way home from work. It was Monday and I would simply tuck the roast into my freezer and leisurely prepare the recipe the next weekend. Much to my surprise, I was greeted by a package about 3 1/2 feet long, 14 inches wide and 12 inches deep. It was frozen, and must have weighed between 35 and 40 pounds--I never actually weighed the whole piece.
It took my husband to carry the package into the house, where I hurriedly cleaned off a shelf in the refrigerator, only to realize there was absolutely no way it was going to fit.
My husband suggested I hire a butcher in a hurry. Ignoring him, I unwrapped the package and surveyed the situation.
What I had was the whole back of the boar from shoulder to tail, including ribs, loins and backbone. It had begun to defrost so it appeared I had a chance of cutting off the necessary piece to make it fit in the fridge.
Into the kitchen wandered my husband and J.D., our dog. "I figured you were up to something," he said as I began attacking the meat with my largest and sharpest knife. The carcass began to careen off the counter, and it took both of us to keep it from falling. "Watch out J.D.," I told the dog, "you're about to be attacked by a wild boar."
By now I was laughing. I figured I had better laugh. Otherwise I might start crying.
After a healthy amount of hacking and cracking I managed to cut off enough so I could package both pieces and fit them into the refrigerator. That was the good news. The bad news was that the already thawing boar would need to be cooked well before the weekend.
"Well it's in the refrigerator," I reported. My husband, egging me on, said "Maybe you should give it a name."
"Good idea, I'll call him Boris."
The next day I discussed Boris with Times Food staff members. No problem, they assured me--call the market where you regularly shop, explain the situation and offer to pay them to butcher the meat.
Great idea. I called. The market manager was most sympathetic, but explained that the health department would not permit wild boar in the market. He suggested I hire one of their butchers on a free-lance basis to come to my house.
I offered what I thought was a fair price, but to no avail. The best I could do was get some suggestions on how to go about the task. So after sterilizing my husband's hack saw in the dishwasher and conning him into helping, we began two hours of sawing and hacking. At the end of that evening we had eight roasts.
The worst was certainly over. Marinating in plastic bags, the meat now fit on only one shelf of the refrigerator.
Four large pots, one on each burner of my range, and another evening completed the first stage of cooking. After cooling and removing all the bones I was down to two large containers of meat.
More cooking according to the recipe, and Boris was ready for the freezer. There he stayed for several days, before going back into the refrigerator to thaw. Finally, the sauce was prepared, everything transported to the dinner location and the recipe was finished.
Those familiar with wild boar thought Boris was superb. The rest thought he was a bit like dry pork.
Under the circumstance, next time I'll settle for a beef pot roast. Living with Boris was definitely one of those once-is-enough experiences.
CINGHIALE IN COLCEFORTE
(Wild Boar in Sweet and Sour Chocolate Sauce)
5 pounds wild boar or 1 (5-pound) beef pot roast
2 stalks celery
1 (25.4-ounce) bottle aged Chianti Classico
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon juniper berries
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup grated bitter chocolate
1 cup dried prunes
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup cream Sherry