Rabbit Two Ways: Fricasseed and Roasted
"Every day the same thing," my spouselet complained. "I want variety. Fix me..... hossenfeffer..."
hit the jump to see what happened...
So I ordered two fresh hossenfeffers from Heritage Foods USA.
You could say I paid a king's ransom for one rare American rabbit and one "silver fox." Both breeds are endangered; they're being raised and sold seasonally by Heritage farmers in an effort to keep them from going extinct (I know this sounds like a contradiction...)
the rabbit arrived....
...and so I was faced with a challenge. How to prepare fresh rabbit two nights in a row? When I'd never cooked a rabbit in my life?
I consulted a friend, who said:
"The best rabbit I've had was in Barcelona, halved and roasted on the bone, I think with garlic and sherry."
Ruh Roh.... was I up for this?
I didn't have any sherry. But I rubbed the whole silver fox rabbit with garlic and then smeared an entire stick of softened butter on it. I stuffed the inside with rosemary, thyme, and marjorum.
and then I put it in a 350 oven. 15 minutes.
poured a cup of wine into which I had squeezed a whole lemon all over it. turned it over. covered it lightly with foil. roasted another hour, basting and turning it every 15 minutes. took foil off. roasted another 20 minutes turning and basting to brown it. Here's what we ended up with:
the legs were particularly juicy and delicious -- a sweet, light meat, not at all gamey. Better than chicken. But the loin was too dry, despite all the butter and wine I'd lavished on it. If I did this again, I'd cook it in my clay pot, exactly as I do a roast chicken -- I think that would keep it moister.
Then, before I knew it, it was the next day. I had guests coming for rabbit number 2, so I had to do something a little less rustic.... I needed to call in the expert....
Chef Gordon Ramsey had found himself in a lot of hot water last May for showing a rabbit hunt on his show, The F Word.
Nevertheless, he had a terrific recipe for rabbit fricassee with tagliatelle, plus a sexy, sexy video of how to make it:
My rabbits, unfortunately, hadn't come with their livers and kidneys intact, but otherwise I was game to try Sir Gordon's recipe. Although I was a little nervous about cutting the rabbit into pieces, it wasn't as hard as I expected. The legs came off easily with kitchen shears. For the loin, you cut right along the backbone, starting just under the ribs. The loin comes right off and you roll it up in the belly flap meat, just like you see Ramsey doing...
I had made a lovely brown chicken stock the day before, to which I had added last night's rabbit carcass. So I had a beautiful stock to poach the rabbit legs in. Added parsley/thyme bouquet, a fresh bay leaf, peppercorns, and a handful of juniper berries:
poached the legs for about an hour. Silky gorgeous meat fell off the bone. Then I seared the cut up loin, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a hot pan with olive oil (without the pyrotechnics in the video). They unrolled a bit, but that was OK. Set the meat aside.
Cut up about 1/4 package of good meaty bacon and one extra large shallot, cooked in olive oil in the rabbit pan:
once the shallots were translucent and the bacon a bit browned, added about a half pound of brown cap mushrooms and a couple of sprigs of rosemary chopped up very fine:
starting to smell delicious. Added 1 and 1/4 cups dry white wine, and let it reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Added 1 and 1/2 cups of the delicious rabbit/chicken stock and let it reduce by half:
oh good lord, really starting to smell incredible now. Added 1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream, let it bubble down to thicken:
stirred in 1 and 1/2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard. Added the rabbit meat and stirred through to warm it. You do this just before you're going to serve it, as you really don't want to overcook that meat. Here's the finished product.
I did every step up until adding the meat to the sauce before my guests arrived, so this is a perfect party dish. You just throw the meat in, warm it up, and cook the tagliatelle.
Serve over fresh tagliatelle, sprinkled with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. With a cold bottle of Gavi di Gavi and an herby green salad tossed with vinaigrette made from sour oranges, olive oil, and garlic.
The guests said: "This is the best meal you have ever cooked." They said, "Better than Barcelona." They looked pretty happy....
My spouselet was pleased too. I would definitely make this again. It's relatively easy and totally fabulous tasting -- luscious and complex, the hossenfeffer* meat is like silk.
*Bunnies are cute. But we should be eating more of them. They're sustainable, they don't use up a lot of resources, and organizations like Heritage Foods are raising them humanely. Plus, they're good for you -- low fat and vegetarian-fed. If you haven't eaten or cooked rabbit, I highly recommend it.