TND – 3 Weeks Ago . . . or Dear Food & WineMarch 28, 2012
Dear Food & Wine,
Thank you for your recent spot light on alternative sources of protein. I enjoyed reading the recipes for Green Curry of Rabbit with Butternut Squash and Dill which manages to combine three things I like all in one place, and the Braised Wild Boar Shanks with Sweet Soy and Star Anise which sounds amazing. While I couldn’t work up much excitement for the Quinoa & Brown Rice Bowl, or for the Red Quinoa and Lentil Pilaf, I appreciate the balance in the article – not all non-meat proteins, but not all meat proteins either.
That being said, having tickled my palate I wish you had also suggested where I might source some of these ingredients. My parents who live in Europe, can get rabbit with regularity, and get gifted packets of freshly killed, dressed and hung wild boar (occasionally you have to pick some buck shot out of your stew, but that’s a small price to pay for how locally sourced that meat is) from their gardener ever winter. However, so far the only place I’ve been able to find rabbit or wild boar is on a menu in a fancy restaurant or at a mail order specialty meat provider. Even more to the point, rabbit will run me $15/lb, and pork shoulder of wild boar (probably the cheapest cut from a wild boar) is $18/lb. Frankly that’s a lot more than I’m willing to spend on any meat that isn’t steak for two for a special occasion.
You also spot lighted goat meat, and gave a recipe for a Stir-Fried Goat with Basil & Egg. If I liked goat that would be something I’d be itching to try. Oddly, despite the fact that I’m not particular fond of goat meat, I actually do know where to get it – the line of halal butchers down at Haymarket. However, if I wasn’t the kind of girl who (a) knows where her local halal butchers are, and (b) knows that they’re a likely source of goat meat, I’d be hard pressed to source goat to make the stir-fry. Whole Foods certainly doesn’t carry it.
Whole Foods does carry quinoa. I believe they, in fact, carry multiple varieties of quinoa, but since I generally find quinoa tastes like couscous’s blander cousin, only without couscous’s starchy charm, that’s not really doing me much good. I firmly believe that the food you eat should excite you, particularly if you’re the cook, and even gourmet preparations of quinoa leave me thinking I could have more usefully spent the time making something else.
It’s not even that I live in one of the food wastelands that you read about in newspapers. I live within five miles of three different Whole Foods, two Trader Joes, and countless gourmet specialty stores over the border in Cambridge. Boston isn’t New York or LA, but these days it’s running a close third in terms of foodie culture, particularly if you live on the Cambridge side of the suburbs. My point being, if I can’t find these ingredients, how does anyone who lives anywhere less food obsessed find them?
In conclusion, thank you for the article and the recipes. I liked the expansion of my culinary horizons, but wish you had also told me where I could buy the ingredients to make the tasty sounding recipes.
Spiced Chicken Ragu
Braised Garlic Bread
Spiced Chicken Ragu
This is a recipe cobbled together from a variety of sources. It owes something a duck ragu recipe I came across. It owes something to the Chicken with Aromatic Tomato Sauce that I have made before. And, it owes something to a braised rabbit recipe I stared at longingly, but wasn’t willing to spend the money to make. Instead, I made this with boneless skinless chicken thighs because they’re easy and affordable for a crowd. If you lived somewhere where rabbit wasn’t $15/lb this would be great with rabbit instead of chicken. If you felt like splurging on duck meat, it would be fantastic and rich with duck instead of chicken. However, for an everyday kind of meal, chicken thighs work quite nicely.
3 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ lb pancetta/Canadian bacon*, minced
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup white wine
Zest of 2 oranges, divided
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
6 allspice berries
4 whole cloves
4 stalks of thyme
28 oz whole tomatoes, drained
28 oz crushed tomatoes
½ cup chicken stock
Pinch of sugar
Saute pancetta or Canadian bacon until fat renders and/or it browns slightly. Remove from pan & reserve. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and brown in batches. Remove & reserve. Add onions and sauté until they start to caramelize. Add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until it deepens in color slightly.
Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and then the wine. Add half the orange zest and all the remaining ingredients. Return the pancetta and chicken to the pan. Stir to mix everything, bring to a simmer and cook (uncovered) for 35-40 minutes.
Remove the chicken thighs from the sauce and shred the meat, it should be very very tender at this point. Remove the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, thyme sprigs, allspice berries, and whole cloves. Return the meat to the pan.
Stir in the remaining orange zest and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more vinegar if desired (I found that this was a dish that took a lot of salt, and needed additional vinegar).
Serve over fresh pasta with parmesan on the side.
* I used Canadian bacon because it meant I wouldn’t have to detour to Whole Foods for pancetta, also because it costs about 1/3 of what pancetta does. You could also use regular bacon, but I suggest draining off most of the rendered fat before you brown the chicken.
Pasta is not something I ever feel the need to make for myself. I am aided and abetted in this by the seriously excellent fresh pasta that I can buy at Dave’s Fresh Pasta which is more or less on my way home. They recommend 1/3 – ½ lb of fresh pasta/person. I served 8, with a little left over for my roommate to take for lunch today, with just under 4 lb of pasta.
Braised Garlic Bread
This started when I realized that I’d forgotten to pick up garlic at the grocery this weekend. Never mind, I thought blithely to myself, I’ll just grab some at Dave’s when I get the pasta. Only weirdly Dave’s didn’t have any heads of garlic, all they had were containers of whole peeled cloves of garlic. I didn’t feel like going out to the grocery after I’d gotten home so I shrugged, bought the peeled garlic and as I walked home decided that rather than just mix raw minced garlic into butter I would braise the garlic in olive oil and white wine until it was tender and then puree it with a little more olive oil and salt and pepper.
Y’all, this is possibly the most dangerous substance on the planet. I could (possibly actually did) eat this with a spoon out of the container. Toasted onto a crispy baguette it’s even better.
6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
10-12 large cloves of garlic, peeled
3-4 stalks of thyme
2 Tbsp white wine
Heat 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a small pan. When it is hot add the garlic cloves and stand back – it will spit. Cover the pan and cook over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, shaking the pan periodically to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the white wine and thyme. Cover the pan again and cook at a low simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the garlic browns evenly. When the garlic is very soft and golden brown transfer it to a blender with the remaining olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper, and puree until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Split a baguette lengthwise and spread generously with the garlic puree. Place on a baking sheet in a 425 oven and toast for 10-15 minutes, or until the bread is crispy and browned (keep an eye on it, it’ll go from nothing to burned in about 30 seconds). Cut into slices and serve.