Friday, January 18, 2013

Truffled Potato Gratin and Wild Boar Ragu

The first time I shopped at Wegmans, I noticed the truffles in the produce aisle.  They were locked in a plastic case and at the time it was really strange to me. Who on earth would spend that much money on a mushroom?! I think I'd tried something with a truffle in it once or twice and wrote them off as insanely pricey.  As the years went by, I got more curious but never actively searched for something to make with them.  A few years ago, some friends invited us over for dinner and they served truffled potato gratin.  It was amazing!  My husband and I promised we'd make it ourselves and then we never did.  Last week, my in laws came to visit and we decided to cook for them instead of going out.  It was the perfect excuse to make the potatoes.  They aren't healthy.  They're expensive.  They're fabulous.  

Sprinkle liberally with Lipitor before serving

The recipe requires that the truffles be sliced paper thin.  Apparently a special kitchen tool is needed for this, and I had no idea it existed until I had truffles to slice.  I had no time to run out to buy one.  Using a sharp knife didn't look like it would work.  I thought about using my mandoline, but didn't trust myself to slice the truffles without ending up in the ER.  So, I decided on using my microplane to grate them.  Hopefully truffle aficionados out there didn't all just facepalm.

The garlic and thyme cream smells fantastic.  It's just enough to complement the flavor of the truffles without overpowering them. The cream thickens even more in the oven but the potatoes don't get mushy.  This makes a lot of food; I ate the leftovers the next day.  Just press some cling wrap down around the potatoes right in the serving dish and store it in the fridge overnight.

Looking back, wild boar ragu on pasta doesn't exactly go well with potato gratin unless you want to eat as many carbs as possible but in the end it turned out ok.  We wanted to cook two really impressive things and this is what we came up with.  In the future, I would not make these two things together.  The leftover potatoes went really well with some lightly cooked flounder the following night. This boar ragu is a meal on its own. I enjoyed the spice blend in this dish.  I love cinnamon and cloves!  They went very nicely with the boar, which wasn't too gamey.  There are three chilies in this to give it a slight, but noticeable kick.  Just the right amount of spice.

I think I overdid it on the parsley, but hey, whatever works. 
A few notes about the preparation of the potatoes.  First, using a mandoline makes slicing the potatoes easier and they'll all be uniform.  After slicing, place them in a bowl of cold water to draw out some of the starch.  The recipe below is halved but I added a few extra peppercorns (10 instead of 7 or 8).  I used Yukon gold potatoes because my store didn't have russets and I think it was a good substitute.

Truffled Potato Gratin
from Epicurious
Makes a ton (and this is a half recipe)


2 cups whipping cream, divided
1 Tbspchopped fresh thyme
10 whole black peppercorns
3 large garlic cloves, crushed, divided in half
2.5 pounds long slender russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices (use a mandoline)
3 fresh black truffles, sliced paper-thin (I grated mine)


1) Combine 1 cup of cream, chopped thyme, black peppercorns, and half of the garlic cloves in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes. Then add remaining garlic. Cover; simmer 5 minutes longer. Strain cream into bowl.

2) Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange 1/4 of the potatoes in even layer in dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter 1/4 of truffle slices over (or grate liberally with a microplane). Spoon 1/4 of the garlic and thyme flavored cream over. Repeat 3 more times.

3) Pour 1 cup of cream evenly over the potatoes. Press the potatoes firmly to compact. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Uncover and bake until top is brown, potatoes are tender, and cream bubbles thickly, about 20 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

A few notes about the preparation of the boar ragu.  The original recipe didn't specify whether to use the juice from the can of tomatoes.  I did, and I think this was the right way to do it.  I think that less liquid in the pot would have dried out the boar. I used San Marzano tomatoes.  I strained them over a bowl to keep the juice, and chopped them.  Definitely use a Spanish onion.  A sweet onion wouldn't work as well with all the other flavors of this dish.  I used cheap red wine (Sutter Home four pack). 

Wild Boar Ragu
from Epicurious
Serves four hungry people


1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds boneless wild boar meat (cut for stew)
1 can chopped tomatoes (San Marzano with juices retained, chuck the basil leaf if it’s included)
3 bay leaves (Use fresh if you can.  Make a few tears in each leaf to help bring out the flavor)
1 cup red wine
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried chili peppers, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
3 sun-dried tomatoes
3 anchovies or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Fresh or dried oregano, basil, and sage
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
Pasta (pappardelle or fettuccine)
Grated pecorino cheese


1) In a large cast-iron pot, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent.

2) Add the boar meat and brown.

3) Add the canned tomatoes and the bay leaves and stir well.  Then add the wine and stir again. 

4) Gradually add the garlic, dried chilies, cinnamon stick, cloves, sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies (or anchovy paste), oregano, basil, sage, red wine vinegar, and salt and black pepper to taste.

5) Simmer on low on the stovetop with the lid of the pot slightly ajar, and stir occasionally for at least two hours, longer if possible. (I cooked mine for 2.5 hours) The longer you simmer this, the more tender the meat will become. The ragu is ready to eat when the meat has totally fallen apart and most of the liquid has been absorbed by the meat. Take out the cinnamon stick and bay leaves before serving.

6) Serve over the pasta and top with grated cheese.

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