Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rabbit Dinner After Hurricane Sandy, and the Secret to Perfect Squash

We survived Superstorm Sandy, and (even with the power outage) so did all our frozen meat. This is not as surprising as it sounds when you remember that what made Sandy a superstorm was the unlikely combination of a hurricane and a cold front. Which means (at least in my area) once the center of the storm blew through, the temperature dropped. By the time the lights went out, it was in the low 40's - not much warmer than the inside of the fridge. It dropped just below freezing that night and stayed in the 40's the following day. Nothing went bad, and all the frozen food stayed frozen.

The power came back quickly, but the cold that Sandy brought in her wake has lingered. Tonight we decided that we needed a nice hot meal and pulled one of our rabbits out to defrost.

Rabbit, leek, and a very nice Chardonnay with a warm fire in the background

Rabbit is very lean and has almost no fat. Because it is always cooked without the skin (unlike poultry) it readily absorbs the fat you cook it in. So that's where my counterpart started with tonight's rabbit. He lightly seasoned it with salt, pepper, sage, and paprika  He then braised it in a fragrant mixture of butter, lamb fat, and olive oil  until the outside was a golden brown. He covered it with chopped leeks and a very nice Chardonnay and placed it in a 400 degree oven to roast.

Lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, sage, and paprika

Braised in lots of tasty fats

Smothered in leek and wine

While the rabbit roasted he started on the sauce, deciding on something aromatic and slightly bitter. As usual he had a pot of chicken stock simmering on the stovetop. He ladeled off some of the stock into a separate saucepan and added more leek and wine, plus a generous amount of bay leaves and brought it up to a boil. He then made a simple roux of goat butter and flour. Once it had smoothed out, he added the bay leaf and wine spiked stock. He also drained some of the cooking fat out of the rabbit pot and added that to the sauce. And, of course he added lots and lots of cream.

He then sauteed whole small button mushrooms in butter, cooking them just until tender. He then added them to the sauce where their moisture was released, adding an earthy dimension to it.

Aromatic, earthy, creamy goodness

And, while all this was going on, he still managed to get a spaghetti squash in the oven.

Now, I have long been a squash hater. It invariably comes out a sweet, spicy, mushy mess. And, while I do love some spice, it almost never tastes right in a squash dish unless you are talking pumpkin pie. And maybe that is part of the problem. Just because you're cooking squash doesn't mean you should try to make it taste like pumpkin pie. It's not pumpkin pie. It's squash.

So, here is the secret to perfect spaghetti squash, and maybe all squash:

  1. Cut it in half lengthwise.
  2. Place both haves on a cookie sheet with the innards facing up.
  3. Bake in a 350 degree oven.
  4. Remove form oven about 10 minutes sooner than everyone else does.
This is approximately how Gareth cooked the squash tonight, and it was perfect. The threads of the spaghetti squash were tender but still had some of that vegetably snap. And the squash wasn't trying to taste like something is wasn't. He didn't season it. With anything. And it was delicious.

The entire meal was delicious. The rabbit was served atop the mushroom sauce with a crown of spaghetti squash ribbons. The slightly pungent sauce complemented the light, mild rabbit meat and delicate squash. While so many others in the hurricane's path are still struggling to get clean drinking water and a warm, dry place to sleep, I am grateful for tonight's meal and for the care that went into it. 

A hot meal received with much gratitude

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