Monday, 24 October 2011

Got a Rabbit ... Lapin aux choux

Joy that is the coming of winter, lengthy, frosty nights spent hunkered down by the fire.  Autumn, ‘midst forays for wood, mulching of the garden or hanging heavy curtains has obliged late night fireside feasts…and this weekend it was themed: Rabbit.

For a mere fistful of coins, P & S Butchers in Holt – one reputed for its panoply of wild bird and beast – handed over a large Wild Rabbit, skinned, gutted and jointed and with that a slip of Pork Belly…

Unsure of how then to cook the creature, Amelia pronouncing Rabbit Satay to be quite the best manner in which to eat a rabbit, I shied once again from the fusional towards the provincial. Keen to use Cabbage and in my thoughts the eternal Pot au Feu, staple of the French home, I came across a recipe for Partridge in Elizabeth David’s French Country Cooking: Perdrix au choux, which proved the source of inspiration.

The recipe reads thus:

Brown the birds in Bacon fat; blanch the cabbages in boiling water for 7 or 8 minutes; drain them carefully, cut out the stalks and the hard inner part.  Cut the cabbages in fine slices and put a layer at the bottom of a large earthenwear pot; on top put the bacon, cut in large slices, the carrots, the sausages and the partridges; season with salt, pepper, a few juniper berries, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, 2 lumps of sugar, nutmeg and a little grated lemon peel.
Cover with the rest of the cabbage, moisten with stock to half way up the cabbage, cover the casserole and cook in a very slow oven for 4 or 5 hours.

Cabbage layer topped with veg, bacon etc

My rabbit variation went thus:

Briefly sauté chunks of Pork Belly with Shallots in pan.  Remove.  Deglaze with Red Wine.  Brown rabbit.  Remove.  Sauté slices of Apple, Sage Leaves and whole cloves of Garlic in same pan, adding butter.  Meanwhile blanch Cabbage, retaining water, and chop as above.  Layer half the Cabbage in bottom of coverable oven dish.  Then layer on Pork, Shallots, Apples, Sage, Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme ,half Carrots, followed by Rabbit. Cover the lot with remaining Cabbage.  Mix 50ml Balsamic Vinegar, 50ml Cider Vinegar, 50ml Apple Juice/Cider, 50ml Red Wine, Pour over dish, topping to half way with Cabbage Water, season with Black Pepper.

Cook covered at 150C for about 3 hours, topping up with liquid and basting as necessary.

...and browned Rabbit

...finally, smothered with cabbage.

The ultimate in rustic fireside feasting, a near emulation of Russian peasantdom in its quintessential rurality.  Served as it was with a touch of Wholegrain Mustard, the Rabbit was delicious, if a touch dry, the vegetables a dream.   Perhaps placing the Rabbit lower in the pan, stacking it more and even stuffing the Saddle with fruit and veg that it remain moist, or as it is again a lean meat, enrobing it in Bacon as we did the Pheasant, would keep it tender.  On Sunday we cooked it for a further two hours, by which time the vegetables were of a sweetness near’ caramel, the rabbit meat falling from the bones, served with baked potatoes and a jus made of the Rabbit juices, Rosemary, Garlic, Red Wine…

The following day:
Luncheon of Pasta and Rabbit - serve, terribly continental, with the jus, the remaining veg and rabbit on a bowl of  hot pasta.

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