Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Dinner

Rabbit is dicey. It's the only animal I know of that you find in both the pet store and the butcher shop. (For the record, I get mine at the latter.) With the exception of the fourth grade during which time my BFF was a girl in my class who had pet rabbits, they've always been firmly in the food category for me, similar to deer. They are beautiful creatures, but they are also tasty creatures.

I realize this is offensive to many people. I am often asked if I would eat cat. I wouldn't eat a pet cat any more than I would eat a pet rabbit. If Wegman's ever features farm-raised feline cleaned and dressed I might feel differently about the whole rabbit issue, but for now I think it's outside consideration.

Before proceeding, please be advised that this posting does contain photos of my counterpart preparing rabbit.

For New Year's Eve dinner, we stayed indoors and had a fine dinner at home with the cats.

Both Escoffier and LaRousse recommend the following basic method for preparing rabbit. This is a classic recipe and fairly straightforward. And remember to save those giblets as they make a very nice pate.

Season the rabbit with salt, pepper and rosemary. If you have fresh rosemary, a couple of sprigs inside the carcass are very nice.

Then truss it up with kitchen twine.

Rabbits are notoriously free of fat, so much so that a diet that relies on rabbit for protein can lead to a form of malnutrition known as mal de caribou. So we braise the rabbit in fat like butter or olive oil. This is generally a good cooking technique as it helps the meat retain moisture while cooking.

Once the skin is browned, drain the fat and place the rabbit on a wire rack and roast in a heavy pot until nearly cooked through. Close to the end of roasting, you'll place the rabbit (rack and all) into a new pot.

Use some white wine to deglace the previous pot and set aside for your sauce.

While the rabbit is roasting, prep your veg. For this classic rabbit preparation, you'll want leek, carrot, onion, peas and other winter vegetables. Cut them to a uniform size and shape. My counterpart is partial to the Julienne cut pictured. They cook quickly and are easy to eat.

He simmered the leek and onion in white wine  and then added these to lightly sauteed carrots with the peas going in last.

Finally, the wine sauce starts with a roux of goat butter and cake flour. Add a little heavy cream, the rabbit glace and maybe some chicken stock if the sauce is too thick.  Have the immersion blender close at hand to smooth things out.

Serve family style on a large platter with the sauce on the side.

More classic techniques for preparing rabbit can be found in The Escoffier Cookbook and Le Gastronomique. For additional photos of this fine culinary experience in all its stages, visit my Picasa gallery.

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