My time spent in Orvieto, Italy, much like the experience of many students studying abroad in college, was all about turning my preconceived notions on their proverbial heads. I never imagined that following up on a random postcard in my mailbox for a summer “arts” program in the heart of Tuscany would lead to a series of revelations in terms of ingredients, cooking and collecting food memories. Up until that point, Pizza Hut wasn’t a four letter word, ice cream and gelato could be considered one in the same, and a bottle of wine per person wasn’t considered a reasonable lunch. But all of that was thrown out the window, and I was utterly spellbound by all of the tastes and sights and experiences surrounding me. I discovered fava beans, pasta cooked in red wine, tomato-less bolognese, fresh porcini mushrooms and young white wines with ne’er an additive or preservative. I ate gelato after every meal, and sometimes as my meal, choosing flavors that tasted riper than fresh fruit. I learned that in Italy, I couldn’t leave the table before finishing the bottle of grappa or limoncello plonked there by the owner, much like a child forced to eat their vegetables before clearing off. I even taught an Italian movie star to do the robot while simultaneously doing an impression of Julia Child. I was officially living the life. Continue reading Pappardelle con Cinghiale
Can I just take a second to swoon? Fennel pollen is a dream. I officially have a crush on the stuff and I am not even a bit ashamed. It’s floral and complex and imparts the delicious flavor of fennel in the most perfect way. Why have I not been tossing this stuff on everything? Fennel pollen cheerios? Fennel pollen Haagen Daas? Yes, please.
Ok, maybe fennel pollen and ice cream isn’t the perfect marriage, but as part of the marinade for porchetta, it’s deliciousness personified. Authentic porchetta is a celebration of pork – a tender roast is marinated in olive oil, fennel and garlic, wrapped in pork skin, trussed and rotisseried over an open flame. The outside becomes super crispy while the inside of the roast stays moist. In Italy, this is street food at its best – tender slices are tucked into crusty bread to form an addictive panino. This version leverages a couple of different cuts to make the grade – a sirloin roast of pork is butterflied and stuffed with ground wild boar and pears. The entire baby is wrapped up like a package with peppery pancetta and roasted until crispy. I’d be lying if I said that it’s not a brilliant combo. Nay, a genius combo.
For a little extra sustenance, I roast the porchetta over a bed of herbs and onions. I also toss some quartered yukon golds with rosemary and olive oil into the oven and allow them to roast along side of the roast. It’s about as good a Tuscan feast as I can get, and for those blissful tastes of roasted pork and fennel pollen, I’m cheesing ear to ear.
Porchetta with Wild Boar Stuffing
1 pork roast, preferably sirloin and about 5 lbs.
1 tbs. of fennel pollen
2 tsp. of telicherry pepper (black pepper)
2 tbs. of kosher salt
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed and minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 c. of olive oil
1 lb. of ground wild boar (or ground pork)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. of fennel seeds
1/8 tsp. of fennel pollen
1 tbs. of paprika
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
4 tbs. of chopped parsley
1 tbs. of olive oil
1/2 stick of butter
1 stalk of celery, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1 pear, cored and chopped
1 tbs. of fresh sage, chopped
1 tbs. of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
4 eggs, beaten
16 oz. of pancetta
handful of sage leaves
handful of thyme leaves
handful of rosemary leaves
1 large onion, sliced
2 c. of chicken stock
1 c. of white wine
2 lbs. of yukon gold potatoes
1/2 c. of olive oil
bunch of rosemary
kosher salt and black pepper
Begin by butterflying the roast (or have your butcher do it for you). Mix the fennel pollen, black pepper, garlic, rosemary, red pepper, salt and olive oil into a paste. Rub the roast with the paste and then place in a tupperware. Refrigerate overnight.
In a large skillet, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots, garlic, celery and pears and cook until tender. Next add the ground wild boar, fennel pollen, fennel seeds, paprika, salt, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne, sage and thyme. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Add the butter to the pan and turn off the heat. Once butter melts, stir in the fresh bread crumbs. Let the mixture cool a bit and then stir in the eggs. Set the stuffing aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Set up a roasting pan with a rack, lining the pan with the rosemary, thyme and sage. Top with the onions and pour the chicken broth and wine over the herbs and onions. Set aside.
On a cutting board, line up slices of pancetta to form a base for the roast. Place the butterflied roast on top of the pancetta and fill the center with the stuffing. You may have more stuffing than you can use, but this can be saved for another dish, to include stuffing turkey breasts or mushrooms. Wrap the two sides of the roast over the stuffing to form a cylinder. Continue to cover the roast with slices of pancetta, leaving no gaps. Grab a length of kitchen twine and gently slide it under the roast. Tie a tight knot, holding the length of the roast together. Continue to tie rounds of twine around the roast perpendicular to the first tie. Once the roast is tightly trussed, set on the rack in the roasting pan. Pop the roast in the oven, cooking for about 90 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the roast reads 150°.
After you put the roast in the oven, wash and quarter the yukon golds. Chuck in a baking pan with the rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven with the roast, making sure to shake the pan around every 30 minutes to loosen the potatoes and crisp them on all sides.
Once the roast is finished, let it rest for 15 minutes to keep it moist and allow the juices to redistribute. Slice the roast and serve with potatoes and the wonderfully melted onions and juices on the bottom of the roasting pan. And last but not least, add fennel pollen to the list of beneficiaries on your will for it is deserving of that much love.
A little danger in the kitchen can pay off royally – high flames, sharp knives and occasionally some tricky ingredients serve as the makings for many a glorious supper. Stinging nettles are not nearly as dangerous as they sound assuming that you can play by the rules. Handled raw, they will mess you up with vicious barbs in your skin. But once you give them a luxurious bath in some boiling hot water, they lose all their bite. Why mess with them at all? Because these lovely greens have an earthy, nuttiness that kicks the ass of spinach any day.
The nettles take a lovely home as the filling for meat tortelli – wild boar is simmered until perfectly tender and blended with mortadella, pancetta and cheese. Wrapped in homemade pasta and dressed with a light sauce of cream and peas, underneath the delicate flavors lies an air of mystery and danger. As your guests tuck into these toothsome parcels, feel free to keep the secret of your forays into adventure with the exotic ingredients contained in this recipe. I mean, you are pretty much the next 007 of the kitchen. Or at least that’s what I hear.
This recipe makes a large amount of pasta, so feel free to freeze any leftovers for later. Spread the tortelli on a cookie sheet dusted with semolina and pop into the freezer, making sure that none of the pasta is touching. If you’re sick of cream sauce for your second go round with these guys, you can use a marinara or vodka sauce to mix things up. Or, even better, cook in a pot of chicken stock for an exemplary tortellini en brodo (tortellini soup). For leftover filling, make crepes or buy egg roll wrappers and make canneloni. Roll a few tablespoons of filling into the wrappers, top with bechamel or marinara and bake in the oven until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Tortelli with Wild Boar and Stinging Nettles
1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
1 lb. ground wild boar
2 c. of chicken stock
3 oz. of pancetta
6 oz. of mortadella
2 c. of grated locatelli
1/4 tsp. of nutmeg
1 tsp. of ground sage
1/8 tsp. of ground rosemary
1 shallot, finely diced
8 oz. of stinging nettles, blanched and chopped
1/4 tsp. of white pepper
salt to taste
1 c. of cake flour
2 c. of all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp. of olive oil
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour
2 c. of heavy cream
1 c. of milk
1 c. of locatelli, grated
1/8 tsp. white pepper
salt to taste
1 c. of green peas
stand mixer with dough blade
pasta attachment for stand mixer
3 in. ring mold
Begin by making the meat filling. Melt the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven. Add the ground boar and onions and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Add the chicken stock and simmer on medium-low until all liquid has evaporated, about an hour. Alternatively, you can cook this mixture in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes to save time. Allow to cool a bit and set aside.
In a food processor, add the mortadella, pancetta, nettles, rosemary and shallots and chop finely. Add the wild boar and blitz until a smooth puree. Remove mixture to a large bowl and add the eggs, cheese, nutmeg, sage and white pepper. Taste for salt (should be on the saltier side) and reseason. Set aside.
Now to make the dough – and feel free to use your favorite pasta recipe (or pre-made pasta sheets to save time). In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour and the salt. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and olive oil. Fit the mixer with the dough blade and allow to mix until a slightly sticky but well-mixed dough forms. Dust the countertop with flour and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour.
Before I start making tortelli, I like to set up a couple of elements to make the job easier:
- a small bowl of water for sealing the edges of the pasta
- a few cookie sheets lined with wax paper and dusted with flour (semolina works well)
- a little mound of flour to dip the bottoms of each tortelli in after they are rolled (which prevents them from sticking to the wax paper)
Once your prep space is set up, start with the pasta dough. Take out the dough and cut into four segments. Grab a hunk of dough and dust with flour, leaving the other three segments wrapped in plastic so as not to allow them to get hard. Run the dough through a pasta maker, starting with the widest setting and working your way down to the second to thinnest setting (on my pasta machine, that’s #7). Flour the counter and lay out the sheet of dough. Cut out circles using a ring mold.
To make the tortelli, take a pasta round and fill with a few teaspoons of the filling. Brush the edge with a little bit of water and fold into a half moon, pushing out any excess air as you seal the edges. Take the two points of the half moon and fold them in on each other, squeezing them together to seal. Dip the bottom of the tortelli in the flour and then place on the cookie sheet. Repeat until you run out of dough.
Put a large pot of water on to boil. While it’s warming up, make your sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix in the flour and stir to form a paste. Slowly stir in the milk and cream in dribs and drabs, constantly whisking to form a smooth sauce. Crank the heat up and keep on whisking until the sauce thickens. Stir in the locatelli, white pepper and salt and turn heat down to low to keep warm while the pasta cooks.
Once the water comes to a boil, drop in the tortelli. Once they’ve cooked for 3 minutes, toss the peas into the water. Allow to cook for a mere 30 seconds, and then drain. Toss the pasta with the sauce, making sure to be careful not to break any of the tortelli, and serve immediately.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a dish with a fancy name and a fancier presentation can also be soul-satisfying comfort food. This seemingly hoity-toity recipe is, at its most base form, an open-faced pulled pork sandwich. The ingredients married together create a taste profile that is wholly sumptuous and ever so necessary. I fell in love after first bite and promised myself that I’d make this one on repeat and revel in the glory as much as possible.
I use wild boar shoulder for this recipe, and thought the cut can take some time to braise until tender, I speed up the process with a trip to the pressure cooker. If you can’t get boar, simply substitute pork shoulder – the taste won’t be nearly as rich, but you’ll still be able to get down. Once the meat is shredded and cooled a bit, it rejoins the party on a raft of ciabatta, sharp provolone and a zesty homemade lemon aioli. Miner’s lettuce serves as an interesting counterpoint for the unctuous boar and salty cheese – it’s texture alone, similar to spinach, adds the fresh finesse that makes this one a stunner. Although this dish is an appetizer, just know that if you serve this dish first, chances are very good that people will fill up on these suckers with reckless abandon without a thought of saving room for anything else. They are just. that. good.
Pulled Boar Panini with Miner’s Lettuce and Lemon Aioli
1 lb. wild boar shoulder, cut into 2-3 large chunks
4 c. of chicken stock
1 fennel bulb, quartered
1 onion, quartered
2 bay leaves
1 tsp of fennel pollen
2 cl. of garlic, minced
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp. of dijon mustard
1/2 c. of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. of miner’s lettuce, stems removed
1 1/2 c. of sharp provolone cheese, shredded
1 loaf of ciabatta
Begin by preparing the wild boar. Add the boar, fennel, onion, stock, fennel pollen and bay leaves to a pressure cooker. Bring to high pressure and then allow to cook for 30 minutes. Let the pressure subside naturally and remove boar from cooking liquid. Shred with two forks and set aside.
Now make the aioli. Add the egg, lemon, zest and mustard to a blender. Blitz on high and slowly stream in the olive oil. Turn off blender and taste for salt and pepper. The aioli should be pretty loose and not as thick as a traditional mayonnaise, so thin with additional olive oil if necessary. Set aside.
Halve the ciabatta lengthwise and spread with some of the aioli, saving a few tablespoons for drizzling. Top with the shredded boar and add the provolone to the top. Bake in the oven on 400° until the cheese has melted. Remove the two ciabatta loaves to a cutting board and cut into 8 pieces for each loaf. Sprinkle miner’s lettuce liberally over the top of the panini and drizzle with additional aioli. Serve while still standing, eating it right from the kitchen and not stopping to take it to the table.