High on the Hog

Wild Boar with All the Fixings

A Yucatán-inspired approach to wild-boar backstrap

Photo: Johnny autry | Food Styling by Charlotte Autry


Jesse Griffiths’s first book, Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, was a soulful revelation on the nourishments—physical, mental, and spiritual—of wild eating. Now he’s on a mission to demystify wild-hog cooking. Due this spring, his next opus, The Hog Book: A Chef’s Guide to Hunting, Preparing and Cooking Wild Pigs, includes more than a hundred wild-hog recipes, plus deep dives into hog hunting, butchering, and the animals’ natural and cultural history. “I’ve taught many classes on butchering and cooking venison, and the elephant in the room is always the wild hog,” he says. “Someone always raises their hand and says, ‘I know this is a class about deer, but…’”

Griffiths’s cookbook writing is a side gig to his real twenty-five-hour-a-day job, running his regionally focused Dai Due Butcher Shop & Supper Club in Austin and his New School of Traditional Cookery, with immersive classes devoted to hunting, fishing, and butchering skills. “There’s long been a one-size-fits-all approach to cooking wild hogs,” he laments. “But a wild hog can be fifteen pounds or three hundred fifty pounds. It’s disingenuous to approach them all the same way.” In his book, Griffiths divides wild hogs into four classes—small hog, medium hog, large sow, and large boar—and exults in the possibilities of each.

This bright, accessible table stunner is a winner, he says, because it works with hogs of any size—and it might just be “the end-all recipe for big boar backstraps.” Poc chuc has roots in the Yucatán, where pounded-thin pork steak is marinated in a sour orange concoction and cooked “over a ripping hot fire,” Griffiths says, “preferably something with character such as mesquite.” Sour oranges can be difficult to find, but it’s easy to get close with his combination of lime and navel or Valencia orange juice. His two salsas—one a traditional habanero sauce, the other a thicker avocado and mint potion—interact with the robust flavor of the meat in different ways: one a spicy exclamation point on the edgy notion of a meal of wild hog, the other a pleasingly tame approach.



Ingredients

  • Boar Poc Chuc (Yield: 4 servings)

    • 1½ lb. boar backstrap or boneless shoulder with some fat left on, cut into 1-inch-thick slices

    • Salt and pepper

    • 2 sour oranges, juiced; or juice of 1 navel or Valencia orange and 2 limes combined

    • 4 cloves, crushed

    • 6 allspice berries, crushed

    • 2 medium onions

    • 1 lime, juiced

    • Vegetable oil, for grilling

    • To serve:

    • 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

    • 2 avocados, sliced

    • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

    • 2 radishes, sliced

    • 12 corn tortillas, warmed

    • Salsas (recipes follow)

  • Habanero Salsa (Yield: about 1 cup)

    • 2–4 habanero peppers, stemmed and seeded

    • ¼ medium onion, roughly chopped

    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

    • 1 cup water

    • 2 limes, juiced

    • Salt to taste

  • Avocado-Mint Salsa (Yield: about 1 pint)

    • 4 ripe tomatillos or 3 small unripe green tomatoes, stems removed, coarsely chopped

    • 1–3 jalapeño or serrano peppers, stems removed, chopped

    • A handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

    • A handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

    • 2 limes, juiced

    • ¼ medium onion, roughly chopped

    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

    • 1 large ripe avocado, peeled

    • Salt to taste


Preparation

  1. Between two sheets of plastic wrap, pound the pork slices to a thickness of ¼ inch. Season each piece with salt and pepper and layer in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Mix together the citrus juice and crushed spices and pour over the cutlets. Allow to marinate overnight, refrigerated, or for at least 2 hours if you’re in a hurry.

  2. Start a hot fire. Once you have a hot bed of coals (or a hot gas grill), place the unpeeled onions directly on the coals or on the grate if using a gas grill. Turn them every 10 minutes for about 25 to 30 minutes until they’re very black on the outside. The onions will look pretty burnt, but you want them charred on the exterior while the insides roast. Remove and allow to cool. Once onions are cool enough to handle, cut off the ends and peel off any burnt exterior, leaving the tender, roasted cores. Chop the insides of the onion roughly and season with lime juice and a little salt. Set aside at room temperature.

  3. Stoke the fire to get it really hot again. Clean the grill grates well with a brush and oil them lightly with a bit of vegetable oil on a towel. Wipe off any of the crushed spices from the pork and lay on the hottest parts of the grill. Grill pork for 3 to 4 minutes per side, getting some good grill marks. Once both sides are seared, remove to a cutting board and let rest for a couple of minutes. Slice thinly and serve over the cabbage, with the roasted onion, avocado, tomato (season the avocado and tomato with a sprinkle of salt), radishes, warmed tortillas, and salsas.

  4. For the habanero salsa: Combine peppers, onion, garlic, and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Puree until smooth, and season with lime juice and salt.

  5. For the avocado-mint salsa: Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until mostly smooth but with some texture, adding water a tablespoon at a time if too thick. Season to taste with salt. Keep refrigerated until serving.


tags: