Alright. I would like to apologize for leaving anyone hanging with the bunny saga over here on gold ol’ EATTO. I’ve been extremely busy lately and blogging has not been a top priority. I wrote most of this the day I actually was cooking the rabbit. I will post the deboning lesson within the next week.
I am going to point out also that this preparation method would go just as well for chicken, since the two meats have an almost identical flavor and texture.
My little bunny pt.2
Well. Since no one made any bunny-cooking suggestions I guess I will just proceed as planned. I am going to cut the rabbit into pieces, de-bone the saddle and tie it, sear all the pieces and then braise them. I expect it to be magnificent. I am just waiting for my camera batteries to recharge before proceeding so that I can take a few ‘de-boning the bunny’ pictures along the way. I have already prepared my garnish and it is:
one carrot, diced
one stalk celery, diced
four large green olives, minced
two cloves garlic, minced
two tablespoons tomato paste
one sprig thyme
two sprigs tarragon
chicken stock as needed
a piece of fatty, salty pork – bacon, pancetta, pork sausage, a piece of salt pork, a piece of a prosciutto heel etc. About 2 slices bacon or the equivalent volume of the other options there. The flavor from the pork product adds a mellow underlying meaty flavor and helps to round out the taste of the braising liquid.
I would also be throwing in a few pieces of mushroom, but I haven’t got any lurking in my fridge at the moment (oh, if only my mushroom log was fruiting!)
So…. that’s all ready. Everything is chopped up and good to go. I’m going to go cut up my little bunny and take a few photos along the way. If dealing with raw meat makes you queasy, then you should probably avoid the rest of this post.
And since we’re on the topic of dealing with raw meat I have to throw in my two cents. If you are having trouble with the thought of me cutting up a rabbit and cooking it, but are generally fine with boneless skinless chicken breast then we need to have a chat. Firstly: the cute little bunny that you are envisioning with its big brown sad little “please don’t kill me” eyes and it’s little pink nose and whiskers and little poofy tail has led a full and humane life on a farm near Altona. It was allowed to hop around and be a bunny rabbit. And it was killed by a kind German lady who did the deed humanely and quickly. This rabbit was bred to be killed and eaten. It is food. It was always food. When it was born, it was food. It was not a pet, nor should you feel remorse for it. Rabbits are a great choice when it comes to meat. Rabbit meat is a delicious alternative to chicken meat and is much less likely to contain salmonella. The pelt is usable, the meat is tasty and simple to prepare in a variety of ways and best of all they are easy to keep and breed. I am considering raising some rabbits in my backyard to feed to my family. Meanwhile, the chicken that you so prefer was born in an incubator with 100’s of other little chicks, kept in a cage only slightly larger than itself for most of its life, and probably had its toes and beak cut off so that it would spoil its neighbouring chickens meat. It probably never saw the light of day and chances are good that it contains a large amount of unnatural growth hormones and antibiotics to plump it up and decrease the likelihood of it developing an infection. Even many free run chickens are often kept in poor conditions. I would prefer the rabbit over the chicken any day. So stop thinking of it as a little hippity hoppity bunny and start thinking of it as an excellent alternative source of meat.
Ok, let’s continue.
De-bone the saddle of the rabbit, roll and tie it as for a roast. You can leave the leg bones in but you may need to tie the front legs a little to keep the meat together.
Season all the pieces with salt and pepper and sear them over high heat in a little canola oil. You want to be careful not to crowd the pan too much and you might find it useful to use a splatter screen if you are preparing this in your home kitchen. Remove the pieces to a plate and pour off the excess oil from your pan. De-glaze the pan (return it to the heat, add the recommended liquid and scrape up all the bits of goodness and flavor stuck to the pan itself) with a splash of red wine.
Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan and let it cook over medium high heat for about 7 minutes. Stir it up from time to time. You are looking for the vegetables to be about 3/4 cooked. They will finish cooking along with the rabbit, but you want to ensure that the flavors open up prior to adding your liquid component. Alright. Add the olives, garlic, tomato paste and herbs. Stir everything very well and then nestle the rabbit pieces in among the garnish. Add enough chicken stock to just cover the meat. Put a lid on the pot and turn the heat down to medium low. My rabbit took approximately 4 hours to cook. You can stir it once or twice to ensure that it is not sticking the pot or burning, and you can adjust the heat down depending on your stove. You do not want to boil the rabbit, you want it to be just above a simmer. One bubble striking the surface every two or three seconds.
To check the doneness of the rabbit (or any braised meat) pull a piece up out of the broth with a pair of tongs. Hold it securely and insert a paring knife. If the knife seems to resist going in, leave the meat for another half an hour before checking it again. You are looking for that perfect balance between ‘falling off the bone tender’ and just a mess of shredded meat. A paring knife should insert easily near the thickest part of the rabbit. You may have to take the smaller pieces (the front legs) out sooner than the rest. An overcooked braise, or a braise that was done on too high a temperature can also end up giving you a rubbery textured meat. So SLOW DOWN. This is a no rush food item here. It is worth the wait, and the planning and the magnificent smell that will fill your house over the several hours it takes to cook. Besides, that gives you time to prepare some fab accompaniments.
Once you feel that your rabbit is done remove the meat from the pot and put it aside (on a plate or on a serving platter). Strain the sauce into a small pot through a fine mesh sieve. I believe that I ended up with about 3 cups or so of liquid. The vegetables have broken down a fair bit at this point. You do not want to PUSH them through the strainer. Merely tap the strainer to release every bit of liquid and discard the remaining vegetable mass. My sauce was almost the right consistency (nappe – coats the back of a spoon). If it seems to thin set it over high heat and let it reduce until it is appropriately thick.
To finish the sauce I added about 2 tsp of dijon mustard and adjusted the salt and pepper. If you like you could also add just a touch of honey if you find the sauce at all bitter.
C’est fini! Pour the sauce over the meat or serve it in a saucier on the side.
I also prepared some tempura onion rings to garnish the dish. I served the rabbit alongside an eggplant, zucchini and onion tian; some fresh crusty bread with butter; and some rosemary roasted potatoes; and red wine, of course. And since the fryer was fired up we also had some deep-fried squash blossoms from my (then indoor) garden.