Well folks, vegetarianism was a nice ride while it lasted, but it looks like I’ve fallen off the wagon…at least for now. I mean, I wasn’t going to pass up a chance for wild boar just to roast some more squash and mash some parsnips, was I? To be fair, the farmer’s markets aren’t exactly overflowing with the luscious bounty of New York State at the moment – in fact the winter market I visited this weekend mostly featured meat purveyors. But more on that later. We’ll give vegetable week another shot once the CSA share kicks in and my home-grown tomatoes (I didn’t move to a decked apartment in Brooklyn for nothing!) start to grow. Plus, we are already looking forward to our April feature “How the Other Half Lives” featuring a guest spot from Joey and the great state of California.
But enough of that. I know you’re all here for the boar. So let me tell you about him. It all started some months ago when I discovered that a vocal majority of the friends I acquired since moving to New York were obsessed with “Lost”. Having never seen an episode, except for that one time I was sitting at a UPS facility in Northbrook and the only thing on was “Lost: The Pop-Up Video Remix” (and seriously, why don’t they do that with more shows?), wild boar meant nothing to me outside of a high school English-Lord-of-the-Flies-Ralph-and-Piggy-what-is-the-motif? context. I still don’t fully understand anything about the show, and where boar fits in (Jack shoots it? Boar symbolizes boredom which symbolizes Locke is a smoke monster? Totally lost here…), but I do understand that when the subject of “Lost”-themed viewing parties came up, boar and fish tacos were widely suggested to be the only acceptable dining options. Apparently the island is home to mysteries, big game, and a tortilla factory.
Still, I live in Brooklyn, and while that might seem like the great unknown to some of my Manhattan neighbors, we don’t exactly have wild animals roaming the streets waiting to be a really labor intensive TV dinner. Although some Williamsburg denizens certainly dress as if they’re out hunting. But enough about flannel. We do, however, have some adventurous young butchers down the street who are eager to bring in new and interesting products. And a couple of weeks back, they brought in a big ole boar. Becca and I first saw the news on Twitter, and ran over there just as fast as our little legs would carry us. Unfortunately they hadn’t butchered him yet, but we did get to see his head (#NSFW). Brent, our friendly neighborhood butcher whose name we know not from introducing ourselves during one of the 48 times we’ve gone to The Meat Hook in the past 3 months, but instead from obsessively reading the NYC food media’s coverage of him and his curly headed partner, Ben, told us to come back in a few days. Well, he actually told us to holler at him to see when it would be ready, so we tweeted at them and hoped they would tweet back. God bless the 21st century. Anyway, a week later the boar was butchered and ready to go, so we trotted back up to the store and picked up our roast. Brent suggested brining him overnight before roasting him like prime rib, which timed nicely with our plans to serve at 8:45pm the following Tuesday.
We carried the roast home, I whipped up a brine with water, salt, honey, cinnamon, pepper, bay leaves, and whatever else I could find on the spice shelf, brought it up to a boil, let it cool a bit and poured it all over the roast. Then I stuck the whole thing in the fridge and went and watched Olympic hockey. But we don’t need to talk about that again.
The next evening, I removed the boar roast from the brine, and just let him sit overnight in the fridge, uncovered, awaiting cook time. We removed the boar from the fridge to get him up to room temp, pre-heated the oven to 325, got it nice and toasty before tying up the boar (honestly, that was probably the most difficult and time consuming part of the whole venture), and stuck him the oven for 20 minutes/pound. Per Brent’s suggestion, we were trying to get him up to 125 internally, to let rest to 130, which was optimal carving temp. I left to run an errand right after putting him in the oven, perhaps not adequately preparing myself to return to the smell of roasting boar. I really didn’t know what to expect, and when I came home and opened the door I was greeted with a scent that could only be described as gamey apple cider, but not necessarily in a bad way. Anyway, I was a little worried about the flavor, but at this point there was no going back, so I left him there, peeking in every once in a while to see I don’t know what.
The cook time was a little longer than anticipated, so my baby spinach and potato gratin was a late getting into the oven, but finally my trusty thermometer, first purchased during last summer’s homemade ricotta frenzy, clocked in at the right temp. The boar was removed from the oven, sat for a few minutes while I prepped a salad and baked the gratin, and then I got to carving.
Everyone joked that their favorite part of the meal was the red bag bread from Key Foods, but I know they really loved the perfectly cooked piece of meat that tastes like a combination of ham and steak. Seriously, what could possibly be wrong with that? I’m not sure I’ll be making it again, simply for the expense and time involved, but it was a rather tasty and timely experiment.
PS – Props to Becca for the post name.