Wednesday Food: How to Pull a Rabbit from a Hat

With a title like that, you know there's a little story to go along with it! A few months ago, Eric got a proposition from a co-worker,  "If your wife makes me a crocheted hat, I'll give you a rabbit".  He raises and slaughters rabbit for trade with friends. For those of you who do not know, I'm a bit of a crochet fiend. I was self taught and I've been doing it for about 4-5 years now. Anything from blankets to thigh high fishnets.

And anyway, I would pretty much do anything for a rabbit! I can't recall the very first time I had it, but I believe it was at the C.I.A., where many first time food encounters happened (frog legs, sweetbreads and so on). When we moved to San Francisco, it was much more common to see in restaurants. Game meats in general were easier to get your hands on in California. But over here in New England, you rarely see rabbit.   Bummer.

*** A quick note, I know some of you may be totally grossed out by eating rabbit or seeing some of the pictures I'm gonna show. This post may not be for you. I respect that everyone has their diet of choice and trust me there will be some lovely vegetarian/vegan posts coming.

Normally rabbit is pretty tough and works best for stew. This one is a young spring rabbit so stewing wasn't necessary, especially because its SPRING! (have I said that enough on this blog?) So the recipe is: Braised Rabbit - with a brandy cream sauce over fresh fettuccine with pan seared kale and roasted carrots. I don't know how available rabbit is to everyone, but if you can get your hands on one, I highly recommend it! When a rabbit is young like this one, it is more reminiscent to chicken than when its older.

With both of our schedules, we had been planning a big dinner for friends for about two years now, and finally this was the opportunity to do it!  I could not be there for most of the cooking because I had to work, another bummer. But Eric and our good friend Chris were very good about taking pictures and writing everything down for me. Thanks guys!!

Braised Rabbit w/ Brandy Cream Sauce serves 5 (We usually have leftovers with everything we make.  And when serving a group, you NEVER want to run out of food!)

4 1/2 -5 lbs Rabbit
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2T brown sugar
7 sprigs of thyme (leaves picked off)
1-2T Olive Oil
1/4t cayenne pepper
Salt + Pepper
2c. vegetable stock

Brandy Cream sauce
2 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, fine chopped
5 thyme sprigs
1c brandy
1 qt vegetable stock
2 cups light cream

1 lb fresh pasta (we used fettuccine)

1) Combine the garlic, brown sugar, cayenne, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Then rub all over the rabbit.

2) Heat your cast iron pan good and hot. Place the rabbit on the pan to sear. Searing will caramelize the protein and sweeten the meat! You want to sear all sides for about 5 minutes or till you get lovely brown color.

3) Transfer the rabbit to a casserole dish (9x13) with 2 cups of veggie stock. Place in a 300 degree oven for about 2 hrs. (Technically, this is more of a moist roast but braise sounds sexier doesn't it??)

4) While the rabbit is in the oven, we can start preparing the sauce. *DO NOT clean the pan that you seared the rabbit in. You are going to use that to make the sauce. All the tasty caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan are going to flavor it. The pan will still be hot from when you took the rabbit out. A

Now, add your onions and garlic to the pan to sweat about 5 minutes. Add your carrots, cook for about 5-10 minutes more, and then add your thyme sprigs. Deglaze the pan with the brandy. If your stove is gas, you may want to turn off the flame so that your don't catch the alcohol on fire. That looks all fun and showy on television but if you've never done it before, it can make you panic a bit. After you deglaze the pan, scrape up all the bits on the bottom of the pan. Depending on the size of your pan, you may want to transfer the sauce to a larger pot, so that it will hold the 1 qt. of stock. Once the stock is added, let it simmer for about an hour.

5) Add the cream and simmer for another hour. At that point your rabbit should be ready to come out of the oven. Once it is out, you want to pull the meat off of the bones. Set the meat aside and put the rabbit carcus in the brandy cream sauce. Whatever meat that is left on the bones will fall off and the bones will flavor the sauce even more! Yummy!

And since your going to be simmering for another hour and you still have veggies to cook, you will want to start your water for the pasta.

6) At this point you can cook your vegetables. We did roasted carrots. Just rub the carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 350 degrees till tender.

7) The other vegetable we did was pan seared kale and mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, then add the kale. Cook with a lid over the pan till the kale is a bit wilted and soft. (about 10-15 minutes) And as always, do not forget the salt and pepper.

And here it is all together!

*** Don't forget to support your local baker! This bread came from Standard Baking Company here in Portland, Maine. This is the BEST artisan bread I've had since college! I can't believe I would find something better in Brooklyn - but that remains to be seen.  You'll be hearing more about them soon enough!

It was a super delicious rabbit dinner with friends we haven't seen for a long time! And when we get such a wonderful treat like a young spring rabbit, we just can't keep it to ourselves!

From left to right, Eric, Brooke, Michelle and Chris (I'm famous for taking pictures without anyone knowing it, I like the action shots!!)

Remember: when the kitchen gets too hot, get back in there and keep cooking!


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