A menu for a new year + wild boar with chocolate sauce
It may not be new — the inspiration from this menu comes from Pellegrino Artusi’s nineteenth century cookbook — but it certainly is a nice way to start a new year.
I’ve written about Artusi’s menus before, but in the very early stages of this blog (which has just turned 6 years old!). They have always charmed me and fascinated me, as an insight into what might be on tables in the late 1800s. Unsurprisingly, the menus are not so different to what you see on Tuscan family tables today, especially for special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s where family traditions rule.
As Artusi himself points out, at the end of his 790 recipes, is that the reader might find it difficult to choose what recipes to prepare. He offers 2 menus, one for each month of the year, plus 10 special occasion menus (Christmas Eve, Easter, an so on), to help inspire the reader.
For New Year’s Day, he suggests cappelleti in brodo (hat-shaped filled pasta related to tortellini, which he also suggests for Christmas, along with crostini di fegatini and panforte, a classic Tuscan menu), cotolette (deep fried veal chops), bull roasted over coals, roast duck and a hazelnut cake.
Amongst his pair of menus for the month of December, he recommends plum pudding (yes, an English recipe, his book is peppered with them) and risotto with wedge clams. For dessert, he likes to suggest fresh, seasonal fruit — pears, apples, mandarins — and dried fruit, which is very traditional at Christmas time, namely dates and nuts. I liked the idea of “slices of orange, made more gracious with some icing sugar and Alkermes,” a most delicious, refreshing way to end a meal. Without Alkermes, you could use a splash of vin santo or cointreau.
In January’s menus, you can find the mandatory tortellini alla bolognese (his recipe makes 300 tortellini, with a filling of prosciutto, mortadella, bone marrow and parmesan) and boiled cappone (castrated rooster), sweetbread croquettes, cinghiale in dolce-forte (wild boar in chocolate sauce) or it’s version with hare and ‘rosbiffe‘, roast beef. For dessert — bianco mangiare, a wobbly, subtle Sicilian almond milk pudding.
Taking these seasonal suggestions on board, we had for our New Year’s Day lunch one that Artusi himself would hopefully have been excited about:
Cinghiale in Dolce-Forte
Wild Boar in Chocolate Sauce
The recipe for Cinghiale in Dolce-Forte is one of my absolute favourites for its complex and incredible flavour, rich, silky texture and obvious sweet and sour Renaissance influence. This recipe is also a sneak preview from my new book, Acquacotta, which will be published by Hardie Grant Books 1 March, 2017.
Inspired by Artusi’s recipe, it begins with a very simple stew, where the wild boar simmers, softening for a couple of hours. Just before serving, the “dolce-forte” sauce is added to the pot, completely transforming it: a mixture of sultanas, pine nuts, candied fruit peel, sugar, vinegar and the darkest chocolate you can find. It’s an excellent way to prepare any game — hare and venison can be cooked this way too.
Serve this with something starchy: mashed potatoes, soft polenta or a nice crusty loaf of Tuscan bread to mop up the sauce. Because this thick and silky stew has such a rich flavour, you could halve this recipe to easily serve four smaller portions, especially if you plan on eating it as a main that follows several other dishes (like in this menu). If it’s the only dish, make the whole thing – and in any case, remember that the leftovers of cinghiale in dolce-forte, are possibly even better than the original dish.
- 1 kilogram of wild boar
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium sized carrot, finely chopped
- ½ celery stick, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ½ tablespoon flour
- 250 ml red wine
- 1 litre beef stock (or water)
- 40 grams of sultanas (raisins)
- 30 grams of pine nuts
- 30 grams of candied fruit peel (orange or citron)
- 40 grams of sugar
- 40 grams of dark chocolate (80% cocoa)
- 60-80 ml of red wine vinegar
If it’s not already cut into pieces, chop the wild boar into chunks roughly 4×4 cm.
In a casserole pot, cook the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil until the vegetables are softened but not coloured, about 10 minutes over low-medium heat. Add the meat to the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, and let it colour on all sides evenly, a further 10 minutes.
Add the flour and toss through the mixture. Let cook 2 minutes then add the red wine, turn heat up to medium-high and let it reduce until the sauce begins to look thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Add stock (or water) to cover and bring the stew to a boil. Turn heat to minimum and let simmer, uncovered, until the meat is tender, about 2 hours, but depending on the meat it could take up to 3. Check occasionally, and top up with water as needed.
In the meantime, prepare the “dolce-forte” sauce. Place the sultanas, pine nuts, candied peel, sugar, chocolate and 60 ml of red wine vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until the chocolate is melted and the mixture well-combined. Remove from heat and set aside (it is good to do this at least an hour before you need it).
When the meat is tender, turn heat up to medium to reduce the sauce until it is thick (if it isn’t already). Add the dolce-forte sauce and let the stew come back to the boil. Remove from the heat and serve.