Before landing in Nashville, chef Matt Bolus graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in London, worked knives at the city’s Blagden’s fishmongers and Allens of Mayfair butcher shop, and served as a butcher and fishmonger at Charleston, South Carolina’s esteemed FIG. He opened his 404 Kitchen in Nashville in 2013. But Bolus, a passionate hunter, loves going back to his roots. He grew up in a log cabin in East Tennessee and would visit his grandparents’ farm in Kentucky, where his grandmother paid him a quarter for every bullfrog he could gig.
His Bolognese sauce began life as a “family meal” for his staff, and it became so popular, he says, “we jumped off in all kinds of directions.” He’s made the sauce with beef, pork, black bear, lobster, and mixed seafood. In the summer, he’ll bring in yellow tomatoes and peaches and deglaze the pan with gin. In the fall, pumpkin and sage provide a seasonal backdrop. But spring, he says, is a trickier time for the gravitas that comes with a meal of wild boar. “Part of our brain is saying that it’s time to get our bikini bodies in shape,” he says, laughing, “while another part is not quite ready to give up on eating big.”
The bright tastes of the herbs and citrus in this sauce help cut through the richness of the boar meat, which Bolus treats with particular care. Overfilling a pan tends to simply steam ground meat, he says, which adds an odd texture and does nothing for the flavor. Instead, he creates thin burger-like patties and cooks them hot to caramelize the surface and leave behind copious amounts of crispy, browned fond. “Really push that ground meat,” he advises. “Get it dark brown, and I’m talking about damn near burnt.”