Sometimes dinner is completely off the grid. Tonight’s rabbit was an example of that. Not purchased at a store or farmer’s market, simply gifted to me from generous friends who have local farmer friends. The dinners, over two nights, could not have embodied the essence of local more than that.
For the squeamish, let me tell you that a beautifully raised, local rabbit might strike you as tasting a whole lot like turkey. For the more adventurous, it is light, meaty and absolutely delicious. It is a protein entirely worth hunting down (albeit grocery shopping or the actual in-the-woods kind) to find responsibly-raised meat.
I wasn’t home last night and Hades took it upon himself to braise our rabbit with leeks and carrots and some decidedly non-local French vermouth. He served it with warm red cabbage, beet and apple salad and a butternut puree.
I cannot begin to express my bitter disappointment at not being home for this meal.
Freakishly, there were leftovers. A whole pot of rabbit, along with the braised carrots and leeks, awaited me in the fridge when I was debating tonight’s dinner. That and a comely 1/4 gallon of Snowville half and half a mere two days from its use by date. In the recesses of my mind, I recalled one of the most delicious, eaten-on-the-fly meals of my life: a creamy rabbit and tarragon soup eaten standing in front of Kitchen Little in North Market on a Columbus Food Adventures tour. That soup so haunted me I had to buy a quart after the tour to take home to share with Hades because never had I been so moved by rabbit. That was my goal with the leftovers.
So I present to you my thoughts for using local rabbit. Two days. Two ways.
Hades’s Braised Rabbit, serves three people with leftovers for a meal for two. So that would be five. I hate maths.
1 locally raised whole rabbit
1 t vegetable oil (Or butter if you’ve made your own from Snowville and you’re being hardcore local. In that case, good for you!)
2 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
1 large leek, white parts only cleaned and sliced (keep the green tops for stock)
A generous glug of Vermouth, I love Noilly Prat
In a large roasting pan or dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil or butter over medium high heat. Add the whole rabbit and brown on all sides. Add in the chopped carrots and leeks, stir to deglaze the pan a bit. Add a good glug of Vermouth and 16 cups of water. Slide into a 275 F oven. Braise for 4 hours, turn the rabbit over once, halfway through the cooking times. It’s done. Cool slightly and remove the meat from the bones, return the meat to the cooking liquor and vegetables and return to the oven until you’re ready to serve. (Hades kept it at 275 for another hour and a half.)
To serve, strain and reduce the sauce (reserving the vegetables) and add a nice chunk of beurre manié (which is simple equal parts of butter and flour kneaded together). Pair with sauteed red cabbage, beet and apple that’s been seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, a little brown sugar and salt and pepper. Good, too, is butternut squash that has been peeled and diced (much like potatoes) and cooked in boiling water (much like potatoes). Add a little half & half or milk, some butter and salt and pepper. Puree.
Creamy Rabbit Soup with Tarragon, serves two big people, plus one small person*
3 cups of half and half
2 very large sprigs of tarragon (last in my garden for the year, I think), stems and leaves separated
salt and pepper
3 cups of leftover rabbit and braised vegetables (see above)
In a medium pot, add the half and half, the tarragon and some salt and pepper. Warm over low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the stems. Add in the rabbit and vegetables. Heat thoroughly. Serve with homemade bread and butter.
*Cherub completely devoured this knowing full well it was rabbit. Ahh, the benefits of serving food that’s well-seasoned. And covered with cream.