Boaring in Mind
19 January 2011
The BOOM of the hunters on the property never fails to send me straight up. I just can’t get used to the sound of them stalking the wild boar that roam freely through these hills. I can’t say I am dead against this way of life, as it is far more humane than raising them in crowded quarters with no land to run on. But the shock of the gun always catches me by surprise nonetheless. A gun never sounds less than a hard reality about our carnivorous ways, the lethal blast that ends one life to sustain another. The issue can inspire endless debate for another blog. But his one embraces food, glorious sustainable food. And today’s topic includes wild boar.
After lunch today, I was asked to leave a plate of Taleggio and Gorgonzola on the counter, so that it would become room temperature for our dinner. Naturally, room-temperature cheeses planned well in advance had me deep in wonder. But I didn’t dare ask, since surprises have been a normal way of life in Cucina Conti, and I am beginning to look at mealtime as a child does Christmas morning.
As I walked into the kitchen promptly at seven, Cornelia was stirring polenta meal into a boiling pot, and then touched the back of a spoon to her tongue for a taste of something intriguing. I peered into a pot of red sauce well stocked with precious succulent wild boar meet. The texture of the dark meat resembled that of brisket, or what the cowboys call tri-tip. Stirred into the mix were dried juniper berries from the property. All the elements were brought to the table for individual service as so:
1. Layer of piping hot polenta at the bottom of the plate.
2. Layer of taleggio and gorgonzola, at room temperature, on top of the polenta.
3. A second layer of hot polenta set on top of the cheese, pressed down with a spoon to begin the melting process.
4. A healthy serving of wild boar ragu with juniper berries.
I reckon this was the most delicious meal I’ve ever had, hearty and full of wintery flavor. The melted cheese against the slightly-gamey wild boar was a perfect pairing, with the polenta to wrap it all up in a proper package. I am hoping the hunters might make a personal visit this hunting season and share the wealth. Cornelia says it’s a rare occasion that they will, but when they do, it is a special treat that goes a long way. Apparently it is hardly worth buying wild boar in the supermarket (who knew?!) because the meat is very white and the flavor lacks depth. Tonight’s was the real stuff from the land, the last gift left by the hunters. I would never have thought of a boar/polenta/double-cheese pairing in my life, but rest assured, I will be sharing this for a holiday dinner whenever the opportunity presents itself. All the nourishment for an entire season of hibernation seems to be in one bite.