It’s all game
New year, new recipes. I admit it took me a while to come up with something new and a little different. Inspiration was found somewhere between ideas for Christmas dinner and the ‘exotic’ meats of Greece. It arrived to me frozen and well wrapped, at the hefty weight of two kilos that landed on my doorsteps via mum’s hands. She was very excited that I would make her some wild boar. Wild boar chops, to be precise!
Head straight to the recipe.
Of course, the parcel did not arrive without instructions for cooking. Mum came with a number of recipes in mind, namely wild boar roast with prunes, the good old Greek stifado – think of a Greekified Bourguignon – and yet another version of wild boar, a drunken wild boar she had once tried at a friend’s house in Northern Greece where hunting is still going strong and game recipes are abundant. Don’t be hasty to think that I had a full recipe.
As the habit goes around here, recipes are passed casually from one person to the next. It’s most likely on the phone or during dinner that recipe wisdom is disseminated, with dubious accuracy on the actual ingredients or (God forbid) measurements. Filtered by a handsome glass of wine during dinner, you understand, some erosion to the initial ingredients will eventually come and the original recipe will get lost in the shuffle. Although this justifies my own personal mania of writing everything down – like a good scribbler that I am – my fascination on how different a dish turns out at every home and with every try, will never cease to amaze or inspire me.
My experience of wild boar, however, was never that of a traditional Greek roast. It came in the form of a succulent wild boar burger, complete with fries and caramelised onions at the Swan, a very picturesque pub by the canal close to Farnborough (UK). At the time, some three years ago, gastropubs in the suburbs of London had only just started to get more attention and experimentation on the menu meant a much more promising pub lunch than the usual – yet delicious- Sunday roast or scampi or fish and chips. Wild boar became my Sunday treat. Many sunny Sundays were enjoyed at the lovely, British pub and still I only learned how to cook wild boar only a month ago. Big round of applause and here is what I learned:
Wild boar doesn’t need to soak. I thought, the meanest part of cooking game is preparation. The meat should soak in a water-vinegar-salt bath overnight. So there is no way cooking this in a hurry. My wild boar chops were divided in two batches, one soaked, the other didn’t. You could hardly notice a difference. If you insist to proceed with the soaking, don’t add a lot of vinegar, it might take the gamey smell away but you risk taking the flavour away too. Better to skip it all together.
I went for a dry and a wet marinade, both with ample herbs to scent the beast. I am more keen on the wet marinade. Then, the longer you leave it in the marinade, the better the taste of the meat and of course, more moist once cooked. I was very lucky to actually deal with the chops as my first go with wild boar. I grilled them, on high, it was only a matter of minutes 15 minutes before I sat down to enjoy these super tasty chops. The wild boar remained moist, with a healthy touch of spice and herbs. My favourite part is undoubtedly the sweet, zesty and mustardy sauce. You could enjoy them grilled and herby straight from the grill, but don’t skip the sauce, the combination is divine.
(adapted by American Game Cooking by John Ash & Sid Goldstein)
- 12 wild boar chops
- 1 ½ Tbsp butter or olive oil
- 4 Tbsp mixed chopped lemon zest and orange zest
- ½ finely chopped shallots
- 100 ml red wine vinegar
- 100 ml red wine
- 6 Tbsp honey
- 100 ml cream
- 2 Tbsp Dijon-style mustard
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 tspn salt
- 1 tspn white pepper
- 1 tspn dry mustard
- 1 tspn dried thyme
- 1 tspn dried oregano
- 1 tspn freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 tspn ground cloves
- 1/2 tspn ground allspice
- 1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- olive oil, just enough to cover the chops
How to make it:
- Combine all the spices and dried herbs and crush thoroughly in a mortar with a pestle. Rub on meat a bit of olive oil and apply a light coat of the spice mix, both sides. Leave them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking.
- Switch on the grill on high and cook for 12-15 minutes, turning mid-ways.
- While your chops are cooking prepare the sauce. Place citrus zest, shallots, vinegar, wine, and honey in a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat until 1 tablespoon remains. Add cream and mustard and reduce by half. If desired, swirl in butter. Strain sauce, pour over chops. And serve immediately.
Enjoy with really good company! Do you have a favourite wild boar recipe? Let me know in the comments below.
From Athens with love,