Friday, March 29, 2013

Wild Boar Ragù

On a cold winter night, nothing beats a hearty, meaty sauce for pasta. I recently had access to two wild boar loins out west, and having recently made a pulled-beef "bolognese" of sorts at home in VT, I knew EXACTLY what I had to do with these little guys: make one of my all-time favorite dishes (pre-no-gluten) to order at an Italian restaurant, Pappardelle al Ragù Di Cinghale or Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu.

This is shockingly easy, and the rewards are tremendous. I made this with rice spaghetti and fusilli, but I find it best with pappardelle (I'm still looking for rice pappardelle, good luck...). It will serve 8 easily, with extras for lunch or dinner the next day or two. Serve with a hearty green salad.

Wild Boar Ragu
4 cups tomato sauce:
  3 tbsp olive oil
  1 small yellow onion, chopped
  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  1 stalk celery, chopped
  40-ounces canned whole tomatoes
  1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  3 bay leaves 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 slices bacon, rendered
2 pounds boneless wild boar meat, such as tenderloins
1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah
1 tbsp dried chili flakes
Cocoa powder, to taste (I used about a tablespoon)
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
3 sun-dried tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste

For the sauce, heat olive oil until warm over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent and vegetables tender. Add the tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook over low heat, partially covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Set aside.

In a large cast-iron pot, heat the oil and add the bacon, cooking until the fat is rendered. Add the boar and gently brown. Add the tomato sauce, red wine, and seasonings and vinegar, to taste. Bring to a boil. Return to low heat.

Place in a 300-degree oven (at 8000 ft; 250 at sea level) for 2-3 hours, or until the meat is very tender. The longer you simmer the dish, the tenderer the meat will become.

The ragù is ready to eat when the meat has totally fallen apart and the meat has absorbed most of the liquid. Take out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves before serving.

Serve over a wide pasta of your choice and top with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese. Accompany with some crusty peasant bread and a good red wine, preferably a strong Italian, like Amarone or Barolo.

Even the puppies know what is going on ;)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chocolate Lava Cakes for Two

This would have been the perfect Valentine's Day post, but it didn't occur to me to make these until I had a long day on the slopes and just needed some splurge that was tasty and sweet as a pick me up on a cold Saturday night. So easy, SO good. If you don't have ramekins, do as I did in a pinch and use small tea cups (if the walls are thick, try preheating the ceramic in the oven).

Top with a healthy spoonful of salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream!

Chocolate Lava Cakes

Butter, for ramekins
6 ounces dark chocolate
3 tbsp butter, plus more for ramekins
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar (I used a bit less as I like my chocolate chocolaty)
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease 2-3 ramekins or tea cups well with butter.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter over water until just barely melted. Stir until the chocolate is fully melted.

Meanwhile, warm eggs to room temperature in hot water. Beat room temperature eggs and sugar together until creamy and lemon-yellow covered. Add the salt. Fold in the slightly-cooled chocolate. Pour into ramekins and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the top is just set. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve with warm caramel and vanilla ice cream. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Easy Winter Chili

Let's just say I've been a bit slow on posting what I've been up to over the past 10 weeks. There are a number of tasty recipes that are sure to come your way in the coming days, now that I've got a week off of class. First up, a winter favorite for the last few days of winter we have left (though if you're where where I am right now, spring and summer were totally chased away by a large gust of winter today; brr!). 

This was a lunchtime favorite many a day at school, served atop a bed of roasted vegetables. I also had it for dinner a few times, served with guacamole and black bean chips, then with a healthy grating of cheese. This is the perfect party dish to serve a crowd (double to serve 8+ people) or for a week's worth of nutritious and flavorful lunches. 

I made this with a mix of grass-fed ground beef and veal from my favorite local farmer. I suggest you do the same!

Easy Winter Chili

2 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 lb ground veal
1 lb ground beef
3 oz double concentrated tomato paste
One 14-ounce can diced Roma tomatoes
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp dark Muscovado sugar
1 tsp chili flakes
8 sundried tomatoes, reconstituted overnight
1 carrot, peeled and cut into coins
1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
6 bird chilies, soaked and finely diced
1 cup chicken stock
2 to 2.5 cups just-cooked (or canned) pinto beans, rinsed well
1 tsp salt

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the beef and brown. Reduce heat to medium and add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes then add the spices and vegetables. Stir well. Add stock, beans, and salt. Bring to a simmer then reduce to low and cook for 2 hours (or longer). Season to taste and serve.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Easy Gluten-Free Scones

A couple of weeks ago, I was granted an afternoon to myself. I think the first time in 4-5 weeks?

The day started off like this: Up early, at 7, to head to the Skiway for a morning of testing and some fun runs. A stop for java along the way, and music blasting as I drive north along the Connecticut. Testing our device, and of course, the requisite fun runs.

The term, then (and until today), had been a blur. 12-14 hour days, with a night and a morning to myself, usually to go out to dinner, bed early, then blow some steam off at the gym or along the trail Saturday morning before hitting the books (or meeting) again.

This one Saturday, as the snowflakes started to swirl down, I had the chance to do whatever I damn well pleased. And, as I'd just finished a week of dinners out and exams, and I had the kitchen to myself,  all I really wanted to do was cook.

First up, my favorite gluten-free "granola" bars. A hearty and mind-numbingly easy Thai beef curry. And scones.

Living in Norwich, VT, I have the great pleasure to be so close to King Arthur Flour, which now being gluten-free, I regard as the BEST producer of an all-purpose gluten-free flour. Seriously. And no corn!

It's been nearly two years or more since I had my last scone, and these, while not as massive and doughy as my favorites available at Nantucket Greens, when my family still lived in New Canaan, they're pretty good, certainly rivaling many available at bakeries around the country today. Furthermore, this recipe is pretty foolproof and comes together in minutes.

The hardest part is resisting on sampling one fresh out of the oven. OK. Cave. Just wait 7 minutes!

Easy Gluten-Free Scones
Makes 16 small scones

2 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar (add more if you like sweeter scones)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup dried currants, raisins, cherries, or cranberries
2 eggs, beaten well
1 cup heavy cream

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400°F.

Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse until just crumbly. Add fruit and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

Whisk eggs together and then add in cream. Whisk mixture together with a fork until just combined. Pat together with hands into a round mass. Place on greased cookie sheet (or one lined with parchment or a silpat) and score wedges with a knife. Sprinkle with more sugar. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Cool at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.