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The Market Chefs - Wild Boar

The Market Chefs - Wild Boar

For many of us shopping for fresh produce at market is one of the pleasures of French life. Wayne Milstead  and Aaron Tighe are both foodies and market fans. Here they discuss wild boar...


wild-boar-sanglier-recipesWith a cuisine that uses lardons as a seasoning akin to salt and pepper, the fact that the domesticated pig accounts for over 40 percent of all meat consumed in France, making it the top protein on the French table, should come as no surprise to culinary Francophiles.  

With cookbooks dedicated to it (such as Stephane Reynaud’s ‘Pork & Sons’), its jowly, snouty, one-ear-askew, barrel-tummied likeness on everything from shop signs to tea towels, and every bit of it from head to tail available at even the most modest of local boucheries, the pig reigns supreme in France. Is there anything more sacrosanct, more French than Le Cochon?

Actually, there is.  Sanglier. What we call wild boar. The feral ancestor to the domestic pig, the flesh of this hairy hunched-back shovel-faced beast causes the French to kiss their fingers with epicurean delight at its mere mention. Don’t believe us? Try this experiment: the next time you’re having dinner with a group of your French neighbours, mention that you’ve never tried wild boar. The sympathetic looks, the shrieks of disbelief, and the personal pledges to personally save you from your gastronomic ghetto will derail all other conversation.  

This time of year, it features in many festive feasts; and wild boar hunts across France take on a seriousness, organization and pageantry all of their own.

Why all the fuss? Mainly because sanglier tastes like the most intense, sweet and nutty pork you can imagine. No amount of sugar or juniper berries can transform pork into sanglier. Don’t even try.

But it’s also the connection with the land that adds to its mystique. As in most French cuisine, terroir matters. Sanglier lives in the forest; it eats roots, fruits, nuts so it tastes of the forest. Chances are some live in a woodland near you. However, unless, you were one of the 21,000 unfortunate enough to collide with a sanglier on a French roadway last year, you’ve probably never seen one in the wild. This reclusiveness and ferociousness (if cornered) add to the mythology.  From the kitchen window at Circle of Misse we’ve observed essentially all game that graces the table in our part of France: rabbit, grouse, pheasant, duck, deer, but no wild boar. In fact, while we’ve cooked and eaten its meat numerous times, we’ve never seen one in the wild. The fact that we have any idea what wild boar really look like, we owe to a Mont Tauch Fitou label.

Despite its exalted position in the dining hierarchy, and its ubiquitous nature, sourcing sanglier can still prove tricky. Some supermarkets carry it, especially this time of year, and if you try the experiment with French friends mentioned earlier, you’ll probably be made a gift of a haunch. Your local butcher should be your first stop. If they do not have it, they’ll know where you can get it. You can also always ask the hunters in your area.
When sourcing wild boar, age is everything. So much so that the French have two different words for wild boar meat. Marcassin refers to meat from animals under a year-old. All other wild boar meat gets the label sanglier.

Only marcassin, tender and succulent, should be used for roasting. Sanglier works best in slow-cooking recipes such as braising and stewing. Try to ascertain the age of the animal - the older the sanglier, the longer the marinating (up to two days) and the slower the cooking method.
Sanglier found in supermarkets are likely to be farm-reared (in large fenced-in woodlands) and therefore young- ish. If the joints come boned and rolled, they make a perfect pot roast.

We’ve included a roast recipe suitable for marcassin (and if you do get your hands on marcassin, definitely roast it, it’s sublime), and a rich and flavourful ragu recipe that works well for sanglier.

 

wild-boar-sanglier-recipesRoast leg of marcassin

SERVES 4

 

2-3kg leg of marcassin

150g pancetta or bacon slices

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

MARINADE

1 litre of red wine (cheap)

Dozen peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Bunch of thyme

Bunch of parsley stalks

6 juniper berries bashed with the bottom of a frying pan

2 cloves of garlic or shallots split in half (peeling not necessary)

 

Mix the marinade ingredients together, pour into a plastic bag, add the meat and marinade in a refrigerator for 12-48 hours, depending on the age of the meat.

Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry. Rub in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt then seal the meat in a roasting pan on top of the stove until just browned on all sides. Strain half of the marinade and add this to the roasting pan. Place the slices of pancetta or bacon on top of the joint as this will provide some fat to baste the meat, and transfer to the oven (180°C) for 90 minutes. Turn the meat, redistributing the pancetta, every 15 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a warmed platter, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the strained marinade to the roasting pan and boil down the pan juices by at least half to make a fine gravy. Season to taste. Carve the meat, adding any juices back to the gravy and serve.


wild-boar-ragu-sanglierWild boar & chocolate ragu

 

Pork won’t stand up to the flavours so you if can’t find wild boar, use wild rabbit.

 

SERVES 4

 

450g cubed wild boar

360g dried or 540g fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle

120g pancetta or dry cured bacon, chopped

2 medium carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 medium onions

2 cloves of garlic

4-5 juniper berries bashed with a frying pan

1 bay leaf

120ml of dry white wine

3 tablespoons of olive oil

500ml of passata or strained tomatoes

Large sprig of fresh thyme

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

50g of dark chocolate (70-80%) broken into pieces

Finely chop the celery, carrots, one onion and one garlic clove.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and add the pancetta or bacon. Gently fry it for several minutes until the fat has rendered and the pieces start to become crisp. Remove them to a plate using a slotted spoon.

Add the wild boar pieces to the pan, increase the heat and brown them on all sides. Lower the heat, add the finely chopped vegetables and cook for about five minutes. The vegetables should soften but not brown.

Increase the heat again, add the wine and allow it to boil down (about a minute). Add a pinch of salt, a generous grinding of pepper, the juniper berries, bay leaf and enough water to barely cover the meat. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender.

Allow to cool.

Finely chop the remaining onion and garlic. Place in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and cook gently for about 10-15 minutes, until they just begin to change colour. Add the tomatoes, thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove and tear the wild boar into smallish pieces using your fingers. Strain the remaining contents of the pan and discard the vegetables, juniper berries and bay leaf. Add the wild boar, strained pan contents and the chocolate pieces to the tomato sauce.

Cook very gently for 10-15 minutes.Season to taste.

Cook the tagliatelle in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. If you are using dried tagliatelli don’t trust the timing on the packet. Time for four minutes then test a strand of pasta every 30-60 seconds thereafter.

If using fresh pasta, add the pasta to the boiling water and watch carefully. When the pasta floats to the surface, begin testing, it can take anything from 30 seconds to three minutes to reach al dente depending on the type and thickness used. Drain the pasta, add to the sauce and toss thoroughly. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve. (Parmesan cheese is not necessary)
 

Wayne and Aaron run Circle of Misse cookery school in the Deux-Sèvres. Join chef Aaron at  a local farmer’s market and then cook and eat your way through a day or two-day course in the  Circle of Misse kitchen. Courses can be themed, such as French Country Cooking, or bespoke.

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