The beast for the feast

Roast boar with butternut squash risotto
Before our big dinner party, I went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, as is my wont. There, I ran into Jen, master locavore. We got talking about the dinner party, and when she asked what I was serving, I mentioned that we were having roast leg of boar.

"Where did you get boar?" She asked.
"I had it shipped in from Texas," I replied, adding, "don't judge me."

I'm sure it's possible to get locally sourced boar, but we've been meaning to check out Broken Arrow Ranch for some time now. We discovered it while on the proverbial hunt for wild game charcuterie after a trip to the Canadian Rockies a few years ago. Broken Arrow Ranch sells humanely hunted, truly wild boar, venison and antelope. The animals are hunted using long-range, silent rifles, and the meat is harvested and processed right in the field. Local it may not be, but it is ethical and sustainable.

Broken Arrow Ranch wild boar leg

I don't know about you, but few of our cookbooks contain recipes for boar — at least not the American ones. Broken Arrow Ranch provides some cooking instructions, but we wanted some other sources to compare. We naturally turned our eye to The Silver Spoon, a fantastic tome of more than 2,000 Italian recipes, and an absolute must-have for anyone who cooks Italian food. There we found not just one but three recipes for boar.

There are apparently two main methods for roasting a whole leg of boar: High and hot, or low and slow. We opted for the slow and low, figuring it might take on the lovely fall-apart texture of pulled pork. It did not — the meat is so lean, there is little fat or connective tissue to break down — but it tasted good nevertheless. The meat was dense and a little dry, but had a wonderful, rich, nutty flavor that reminded me a lot of the jamòn we had in Andalucia.

We served slices over a dollop of butternut squash risotto (yet another pressure cooker miracle) and doused with a rich pan sauce. And then we pigged out.

Wild Boar in Sauce (Cinghiale in salsa)
Adapted from The Silver Spoon

1 6-lb. leg of boar (feral pig)

2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Some fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 750 ml bottle good red wine
3/4 c. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients other than the boar in a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the boar leg. Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Season the boar with salt and pepper, and add to the cooled marinade. Cover with foil and let rest in the fridge for 24 hours, turning at least once.

Preheat oven to 250º. Remove meat from marinade, and pour off all but enough of the marinade to cover the bottom of the roasting pan, leaving the aromatic vegetables. Return the boar to the pan and roast until it comes to an internal temperature of 140º, about 4 hours. Remove the meat to a cutting board, tent with foil, and rest for 15 minutes or so.

Roast leg of Broken Arrow Ranch boar

Place the roasting pan over medium heat. Remove any vegetable solids. When the residual liquid in the pan is boiling, add some stock, Dijon mustard, salt and whatever dry herbs you like. Then, turning off the flame, add a couple tablespoons of butter and swirl until melted and incorporated into the sauce. Pour off the sauce into a gravy boat.

Butternut squash risotto
Adapted from Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker
by Lorna Sass

Pressure cookers famously make perfect risotto in no time and with minimal effort. In our first try, we used vialone nanno rice, which gave a really nice, toothsome texture. However, on the big day, we were unable to find any in stock. Arborio works just fine of course.

1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
1/2 c. finely chopped shallots or onion
1.5 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine or vermouth
3.5 c. chicken broth (plus 1/2 c. extra)
1 tsp salt (omit if using salty broth)
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus more if needed
Freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1.5 c. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2-3 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

Heat the oil or butter in a 4-qt or larger pressure cooker. Add the onions and cook over high heat for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in the rice, making sure to coat it all with the oil.

Standing back to avoid sputtering oil, add the wine and stir. Cook over high heat until the rice has absorbed the wine, about 30 seconds. Stir in 3.5 c. of broth, plus the squash, 2 Tbsp of sage and salt. Take care to scrape up any rice sticking to the bottom of the cooker.

Lock lid in place. Bring to high pressure and cook for 4 minutes (5 if using vialone nanno, baldo or carnaroli). Quick release the pressure and remove lid when pressure's off.

The risotto will still be pretty soupy at this point. Put the cooker back on med-high heat and stir vigorously for about 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the rice becomes tender; the squash will break down and help thicken the risotto, but some chunks will remain. Add extra stock if it gets too dry.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the cheese and additional sage, salt and pepper to taste. The risotto will continue to thicken on the plate.

Michael Ruhlman enjoyed some Broken Arrow Ranch venison liver.

Jo at Amuse Bouche hunkered down for some roast wild boar with port cherry sauce.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook rounds up some boar recipes.

Chef Scott Youkilis of Maverick uses Broken Arrow Ranch meats in the restaurant.

  • Just Wow! That’s all I can say. Your entire menu is amazing.

  • sam

    I have a wild boar salumi from Taylor this week – We’ll have to ask him where he sourced the meat.

  • Wow — hooray for the Silver Spoon — and this sounds amazing! You guys are seriously tempting me to get a pressure cooker…

  • Kalyn: Thanks!
    Sam: I see from one of the related links that d’Artagnan also has boar, so there are clearly other sources.
    Genie. Do it! Do it! Be one of us!

  • jeannebee

    Sounds like it turned out perfect!

  • sam

    PS – the first recipe I made from the silver spoon (some kind of gross chestnut flour cake) was such a disgusting horrible disaster I haven’t opened the book since. I will be looking to you and Genie for more silver inspiration cos otherwise I am scared of this book.

  • jeannebee: Perfect? Well, I’d try the high roast method next time to see how it differs. I would like a little more moisture.
    sam: I know this cake; my friend Chiara in Rome makes it all the time. I’ll capitulate that it’s an acquired taste. 🙂

  • What does boar taste like? Is it more like lamb or pork? Looks like your version turned out perfectly. Are you serving it again for Christmas? And where’s my invitation? 😉

  • It’s definitely more like pork than lamb, with less of a grassy flavor and more nutty. Imagine jamon iberico or prosciutto, but not cured.
    We are officially DONE with holiday cooking! 🙂 But yes, let’s get together — and see if we can pry John Vlahides away too!

  • From the point of view of natural ecosystems, it’s interesting to see that wild boar meat is gaining a bit of popularity. Wild boar are a tremendous ecological problem all across the U.S.: the animals tear up landscapes, creating erosion and destroying plant communities (and the invertebrate and microorganism communities that coexist there). Unfortunately, they are smart and strong, so the populations are hard to control. In 2005, the New Yorker had an article about this (alas, it’s not available for free on-line right now).

  • Love the Silver Spoon! It’s one of my goto cookbooks. That boar leg looks delicious!