"" What's She Eating Now?: Waste Not Want Not, Especially When Pork's Involved

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Waste Not Want Not, Especially When Pork's Involved

I don't use the word "hate" often, but one thing I do hate is wasting food. Nothing makes me more dismayed than cleaning out my fridge and having to throw out things I couldn't find a use for before the end of their shelf life, or worse, things I simply forgot about in a drawer or in the back of the fridge. Knowing the guilt and anger I feel when this happens, I am pretty vigilant about trying to use everything and have become a bit of a kitchen MacGyver when need be, throwing seemingly incongruous ingredients together to save the day, or dinner as it were.

This past weekend my dad roasted an entire pig. I was very excited about the marquis dish of his annual Labor Day barbecue, but was concerned there may be a lot of waste. I can't stand throwing out vegetables. Wasting animal protein simply drives me mad. I was, however, pleased to see that almost the entire pig was eaten, except the legs, which most of the guests found a little too anatomical to be appetizing. Knowing my love for all things pig, and my simultaneous hate of all things waste, my dad offered them to me to "do something with." Alternatively, the legs would become a treat for my family's obese dog, Harley, who certainly did not need the fat-lined limbs.

With a pasta sauce in mind I took the legs, wondering if I would get squeamish when it came to breaking them down to remove the meat. After a day of the legs posing for me (hooves-and-all) each time I opened the fridge, I took them out and started to cut them up, my distaste for waste rising above my aversion to preparing things that so closely resemble what they really are. Always my worst kitchen critic, I actually think the sauce, which I served over fresh pappardelle, came out great. So thanks, Dad, for the legs. And sorry, Harley, for usurping your snack. As much as I work to prevent it, I am sure you will be the recipient in the not-too-distant future of something delicious that managed to hide behind a six pack.

Recipes and directions:

Starter: Fennel Salad with Grapefruit
  • Slice fennel thin on a mandolin
  • Toss by hand with a little high quality olive oil, salt, and pepper (careful with the salt as you will also add cheese)
  • Use the large hole side of a grater to add some pecorino romano
  • Remove skin of a red grapefruit with a knife, cut into horizontal slices then divide those slices in fourths, add to salad
Main: Pappardelle with Pork (Ragu-like) Sauce
  • Separately put up water to boil for the pasta
  • In the pan you will make the sauce in sauté garlic
  • Add onions, sauté until onions start to turn translucent
  • Add chopped up carrots and celery
  • Add cut up tomatoes, add salt and pepper to the mixture and stir
  • Add fresh rosemary (pluck off the leaves and chop finely, I used rosemary from my garden which makes me super happy, reserve some for adding more later)
  • Keep stirring and let the tomatoes break down a bit, if it looks like you need a more sauce like consistency add some canned crushed tomatoes
  • Season pork with salt and pepper then add (my pork was already cooked, if your pork isn't cooked you'll need to braise it, here is a link that explains how to do that in the context of making a sauce with it)
  • Add the rest of the rosemary and some fennel (I had fennel greens since I served fennel as a starter, you don't need much and it helps tie the flavors from the two courses together but is not essential)
  • Cover and cook for a while, stirring occasionally
  • For the pasta, I used fresh pasta so it cooks very fast. A little vegetable oil in the water will help keep it from sticking to itself, as will stirring occasionally. When it starts to expand a lot its nearing done so test a piece, my pappardelle cooked in about 6 minutes
  • Add shaved pecorino romano at the table. The pecorino will also help tie together the first and second courses
  • We accompanied the meal with a 2007 Domaine de la Mordorée Tavel rosé, delicious!
Buon Appetito!


  1. Looks delicious. I am glad you were able to pull off this feat (feet? feet!) without dipping into my pile of crispy skin over the weekend.

    So, question. Is papardelle ever used with anything but ragu? I feel like I never see one without the other. It would make sense - heavy sauce needs a rugged pasta - but do they ever go other directions?

  2. I'm not obese, I'm just big-boned.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Amanda! The answer is you can really put whatever you want on pappardelle but it lends itself best to hearty meat-based sauces and braised meats in particular. Even a recipe I found for Pappardelle with Aromatic Lentils and Parmigiano-Reggiano contains pancetta. Perhaps next August we can go to the Sagra delle Pappardelle al cinghiale (Pappardelle with wild boar festival) in Gemmano, Italy and we can taste pappardelle at its finest!

  4. Harley. I will agree that you are *also* big-boned.