Thursday, March 01, 2012

Even The Best Have Issues

A month or two (or three) ago, I picked up some frozen wild boar shoulder.  It sat in my freezer until last weekend.

As my kitchen reno looms, an effort to clear out foodstuffs rolls on, and 2.75 lbs of boar shoulder takes up a bit of room. So out it came, thinking I'd just roast it up like any ol' piece of pork.

Luckily, I looked up some stuff, and it turns out boar can do with some solid marinating. So as it thawed in my fridge, I explored options.

My best friend, who knows me well, got me The Complete Robuchon for Christmas. I had yet to have made anything from it, but this seemed in general vicinity of its alley.  I was right. "Roast Haunch of Young Boar" largely fit the bill, except for the shoulder vs haunch aspect.

So I dutifully gathered the ingredients - pork bones, herbs, juniper berries, shiraz, etc., and assembled the marinade. Piece of cake, except for finding pig bones. Those took visits or calls to 9 different butchers, the last of which was just about to toss his out with the rest of the cuttings from that day's delivery.

Regardless, the meat sat in the marinade for around 20 hours. I took it out, and let it rest on the counter to warm up as I prepared everything else. The probe thermometer still read chillier than I'd like, but time was a-wastin' and I was hungry, so in it went.

Lucky me, I used the thermometer.  See, Jöel calls for "40 minutes at 400, basting every 10 minutes, turning halfway through".

20 min in, the outside of the meat was still cold, the interior temperature wasn't even at room, and there was no way this would be ready.

40 min in the interior temp was now rising steadily.  An hour in, it was approaching the hope it might be done that night.

I was confused. I've done plenty of roasts, and never seen this slow a rise.  I double checked with my Thermapen (another great gift from the same friend)... same reading.  Everything else in the oven (vegetables in the pan, potatoes to the side) was cooking fine.

An hour and half in, I turned it off, let it rest, and decided to only eat the ends.  It was delicious, but also an hour later than I had planned.  Also, the ends were well-done, but a quarter through was medium rare. In the middle was a small section that was still raw.  Not rare. Raw. The thing had been thawing for 4 days, and was under 3 lbs.  No way it was still frozen, but that's exactly how it cooked - as if it was rock solid instead of the floppy hunk of roast I pulled out of the marinade.

Regardless, it generally worked out, but I could only imagine if I'd just followed the 40 minutes instruction - cold, raw meat, bleeding all over the place.  I'm surprised that the Robuchon book would rely on timing instead of temperature. The book is only 4 years old, so it's not like it predates the era of kitchen thermometers.

What I've pulled from that is simple - good flavour combination, but next time I'm cooking it my way.

Also, I can't wait until I have a new oven.


NumbBono said...

Guessing you were in the oven on this one. Tough to cook a roast perfectly in the oven that's above 2 lbs, let alone pushing 3 lbs.

The book will tell you low and slow, but quite honestly, it's tough to do that with most modern ovens.

That hunk of boar needed a nice grilling followed up by a finishing off in the oven.

My name is NumbBono and I can win poker tournaments and cook like a mother%#%er.

I grew up in a family that had a restaurant as the business. Wild boar wasn't served, but the basics of cooking were learned as I grew up.

Astin said...

I've done much bigger roasts easily, although not wild boar. This one was just weird - the OUTSIDE of the meat was still cold after 20min, despite the pan being burning hot and the drippings boiling.

I generally do my roasts at 250 until they reach an internal temp of 130, then I take 'em out, crank the heat to 500 and put 'em back in to get that nice outside crust. Never had a problem before.

Only time I pan-sear first is if they roasts are going inside something - like a beef wellington, or if it's a small piece like a bone-in chicken breast.

The odd thing about this recipe was that it wasn't slow and low. It was fast and high and didn't come close to working.