Wolffer Memorial: Rooster Ragu

The room was full of friends and family celebrating the life of Christian Wolffer, the gentleman farmer who established the stables, vineyards and winery at the Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack, New York. On Sunday afternoon, as a cool breeze chased the crowd into Christian’s tasting room, his son Marc stood on the stage, holding his glass up to toast his father. Before his toast, Marc told the story of how his sisters joined him in his fathers’ bedroom just days after the sad funeral in January, they addressed his socks drawer first. Marc is proud to tell the story of how his pop had no grey or black socks, only the colors of a rainbow, Christian was not a boring man.

As the crowd thinned, those who were closest to Christian (many had traveled across oceans to be there) made their way to the conference room facing the west at sunset. My team had set a buffet specifically to serve those who may have missed food that had been passed about during the hours that focused on memorializing their boss, friend, and father. Offered where duck tacos & sweet corn and guajillo quesadillas on the buffet, along with fresh corn bread, and handmade tamales.

We also presented a Rooster Ragu.

The idea of using roosters came from a visit with Tony at the Iaconno chicken store in East Hampton. On occasion, when business is brisk and the 3 pound hens sell out he’ll offer a rooster. His mom (handling the cash and selling eggs) will remind the buyer that roosters need a long time in the pot.

This recipe is the result of one of those conversations.


1 7-8 lb. rooster (or large roasting chicken)
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
6 slices bacon
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup crushed adobo chili (or other dried smoked mild chili)
16 oz crushed tomatoes (look for Muir Glen organic tomato)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
16 oz chicken stock
16 oz pozole (canned or rehydrated)
salt & pepper to taste

Start a day in advance by roasting the chicken for 2.5 hours @ 350 degrees.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Reserve all dippings for stock.

When the chicken is cool remove all of the meat from the bone and slice the breast pieces into 3 or 4 chunks. Set the meat aside and make stock with all refuse. Meanwhile slice and dice vegetables and crush chili. After the stock has been simmering for 45 minutes begin to assemble the ragu in a roasting pan 3 or 4 inches deep (big enough to hold all ingredients). Place a large sauté pan on medium flame and bring the bacon to crisp, remove and chop fine. Now, using the bacon fat soften the celery, onion, carrots and garlic.

When the vegetables have softened place half of the contents of the pan in the base of the roasting pan. Add the chicken pieces, top with the rest of the vegetables and the bacon.

Next, using the same pan, add the olive oil and the mushrooms to soften them. Spread mushrooms on top of the chicken then sprinkle the chili over the top.

Finally, in the same pan, combine the hot chicken stock with the tomato products (2) and the drained pozole, season liberally and pour over the top of the chicken in the roasting pan. Wrap the pan with plastic and refrigerate over night.

As dinner time comes into view (2 hours prior) bring your oven to 350 and remove the plastic wrap, now cover with foil and place in the oven. As the ragu cooks, prepare whatever rice appeals, we like brown basmati in my house. Serve with corn bread and a seasonal salad.

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