18 October, 2009

100 euros per kilo.

That's what the butcher, M. Challier, would have needed to charge me in order to cover his expenses. At my raised eyebrow, he explained that his daughter had swerved his car off into a night-dark ravine to (unsuccessfully) avoid the sanglier which now augmented his display. His daughter is fine, aside from the shock. But the wild boar was less fortunate; the impact was hard enough that the wounded animal remained lying in the road. The butcher came, rescued his daughter, and dispatched the dying animal. M.Challier is a fine abatteur, that is, a butcher who cuts his own meats from whole carcasses. He is one of the last to do so in the region; he just isn't often called upon to cut up a boar.

The Cevennes abound in wild boar, and the hunters turn out in force to meet these animals, with dogs and perhaps a bottle of wine to keep warm. Although I have never heard of anyone hurt by a boar, they still scare me, with their impressive tusks, occasionally loud foraging or disputes, and body weight. My antediluvian neighbor shot one that weighed 120 kgs. I'm not sure which I dislike more, the baying dogs and rifle shots, or my garden plowed over by boar searching for larvae in the irrigated bits. Regardless of my opinion, hunting remains sacrosanct in France: while in the Netherlands, where I used to live, there is a political party for animals, France has its own political party for hunters, called Chasse Peche Nature Traditions (CPNT). If ever the two should meet...

At any rate, I made a daube de sanglier, or wild boar stew, but with a difference: dark chocolate was involved. I'm afraid the photo doesn't much inspire, but in its defense, few meat-based stews photograph well. I included it anyway, because I personally like to see what somebody suggests I try cooking.* The velvety stew is rich, full of mouth-smacking, long-simmered flavors.

If you are game to try something just a bit different, give this simple (if not speedy) recipe a swing. It is adapted from an older French cookbook I found aux puces, or the local flea market. Please note that you'll need about four hours to marinade the meat, then around one hour and fifteen minutes cooking time, during which you will be only actively cooking for twenty minutes.

*I'm trying to include the photo, but seem to have run into unexpected technical issues.

Sanglier au chocolat et au pignons (Wild Boar Stew with Chocolate and Pinenuts)

Serves six.

about 1 liter red wine vinegar (for marinade)
1 kg wild boar, chopped in chunks
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
250 g tomato puree
20 cl dry white wine
salt and pepper

75 g dark chocolate (70% or more)
5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar (or banyuls vinegar)
40 g cedrat confit, or candied lemon peel, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
75 g pinenuts, toasted

Place the meat in a glass or ceramic bowl, add red-wine vinegar just to cover the meat, stir and allow to rest 4 hours.

In a large, heavy pot or cocotte, melt the butter, and after its begins to foam, add the chopped onion. Once the onion is somewhat transparent, remove the meat from the marinade, shaking off the excess liquid, and add to the pot. Salt and pepper generously, give a quick stir, then cover. Allow to simmer undisturbed on medium-low heat for 30 minutes (it shouldn't boil, just gentle bubbles). Please note that the cooking vinegar will temporarily make for a disarmingly odd smell. Hang in there.

Stir in the tomato puree and white wine, cover and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the 5 tablespoons vinegar, broken-up chocolate, chopped lemon peel, sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Continue stirring over medium low heat until sugar and chocolate are fully melted and well-combined. Place this sauce in a food processor and process until smooth. Add this sauce to the simmering meat and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes, to allow the flavors to mellow. Adjust seasoning if necessary; a bit of salt may help balance the sweetness.

Serve hot, sprinkled with the pinenuts and with mashed potatoes on the side.

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