Papardelle, boar and two bad jokes

When writing blog posts, I usually aim to give readers a recipe, so they can go forth and create with the assurance that they’ll get similar results to what I have here. But the truth is, when I’m not cooking for the blog, I’m not much of a recipe gal. You might have gathered that from the posts where I advise you to use a glug of this or a pinch of that, or “whatever’s in the fridge.”

This is one of those days and one of those recipes. It started with a cold afternoon that begged for something braised. I had some boar tenderloins in the freezer, and a hankering for papardelle. Unfortunately, I had no tomatoes. Not in a can. Not on the vine. No tomatoes.

Which reminds me of a joke I once heard: What’s red and invisible? No tomatoes. Haha. I have the worst taste in jokes. You want another one? Ok. What do you get hanging out of a banana tree? Bananas? Nope. Sore arms! I crack myself up.

Anyway, despite the lack of tomatoes, I decided that I’d make a boar ragu of sorts. I didn’t know where I’d end up, but I didn’t mind the idea of a Sunday afternoon spent in a warm kitchen. What’s that they say about joy being in the journey, not the destination? This was that kind of endeavor. So, I turned the oven on to 350 and cleaned out my veggie drawer, chopping up some carrots, celery and onions. I also diced up five large cloves of garlic.

Then, I took about a half pound of Irish bacon (it was in the freezer, begging to be used) and cut that into lardons a half an inch long. I threw the bacon into a big Le Creuset and let it fry up and added the veggies and garlic. While those cooked, I got out a big frying pan and browned the tenderloins for a few minutes until they were seared all around.

When the veggies were soft (after about three minutes) I added a bottle of white wine and a dash of tomato paste. And when the tenderloins were browned, I put them in the pot too. I added the cover and put the whole thing in the oven for two hours, checking on it occasionally.

While the boar braised, I made papardelle. Homemade pasta is like heroin to me. I can never get enough. I love the tender, delicate mouthfeel, the slightly sweet egginess, the chewiness of the whole thing. Heaven.

I taught myself to make pasta by reading a Jamie Oliver cookbook, which assured me that pasta would be “dead simple.” I fell in love with Jamie Oliver back in college, when he was the Naked Chef, not the preachy chef. I don’t watch his shows anymore, but those old cookbooks are still some of my favorites.

Anyway, Jamie was kind of right. Pasta is pretty easy, but I think that having a Kitchen Aid makes it about a million times easier. I mix the dough using the dough hook, and then roll out using the pasta roller attachment. I’ve been thinking lately that I should take a pasta class and learn to do this properly, as I feel like I’m stumbling through the process. There’s been a lot of trial and error pasta in my kitchen, and I still don’t feel like I’m doing it totally right.

Basically, I just take a half pound of flour and two eggs and mix it in a bowl with a dough hook. The I add two more eggs and a little more flour until the dough is elastic and not sticking all over the place. I shape the dough into a ball (floured hands make this much easier) and then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

While the dough chilled, I checked on that ragu. Pulled it out of the oven and used two forks to shred up the tenderloin. gave it a quick stir and popped it back in the oven.

When the dough was ready,  I kneaded it for a few minutes and then cut it into four equal parts, formed them into semi-flat ovals and put them through the pasta roller on the widest setting. Then, I turned the pasta roller down to “5” and put the pasta sheet through again, so it came out thinner and longer.I put the sheets on a floured counter (you’ll need quite a bit of space for this) and used a paring knife to first cut them in half (so they are half as long) and then cut them into 1-inch wide strips. I hung the noodles on coat hangers and then hung them from my bike, which hangs from the ceiling of my kitchen (lots oh hanging going on here). I’ve learned from trial and error that using a clothes drying rack for this is a BAD idea. Don’t try it.

While the pasta dried, I boiled up a big pot of water. And pulled the ragu out of the oven. Gave it a stir. Grated some Parmesan cheese into a bowl.

Once the water was boiling it only took about two minutes to cook the pasta. Drained it well, and served it on a plate, smothered in sauce, topped with cheese and paired with wine.

Fortunately, this was one of those journeys that ended happily, with a delicious meal and a full belly. I’m curious about the rest of you: do you ever just cook mindlessly, not really knowing if your final dish will be edible/good? What are your best successes? Failures?