I worry sometimes that my affinity for quoting movies confuses my readers. A lot of times I’ll include a movie or TV quote that I think is so relevant and hilarious, only to be told by Matt, “Liz, people might not understand that you are quoting an episode of “The Nanny” crica 1996.” Fineeee, I’ll take it out.
But this blog post title shouldn’t be lost on too many people. It’s mine and my sister’s favorite quote from Elf. “We open on a tomato…he’s had some tough times down on the farm…ya know…rabbits.” In case you haven’t seen it click here for a reference point.
So onto the meaning behind the post. Yes, I made rabbit. Yes, I know they’re really cute. Yes, I know that’s a little heartless. But they’re just so magically delicious, especially when braised in a ragu and poured over pappardelle pasta 🙂
A few days before Christmas we had my aunt and uncle over for dinner. It was Matt’s last night in Chi-town and I wanted to making something really unique. I had been wanting to make rabbit for along time, I love the flavor and texture and I was really eager to cook something hearty and comforting, but also adventurous. The trouble was that I decided on this at approximately 2pm on the day of the dinner. The rabbit needed to be found, thawed (you’d be hard pressed to find a fresh rabbit without a few days notice), butchered, prepped, and braised in time for dinner. So I set out in search of the rabbit. I needed some other groceries so I figured I’d try the gourmet market in town. Matt and I marched up to the butcher counter and I politely asked “Do you have rabbit?” The butcher rudely retorted “Do I have WHAT?” as if I had asked just asked him for Kangaroo meat (which is delicious by the way and very common in Australia). “Rabbit” I responded. Blank stare. “Ya know…rabbit” (this time I added a little hoping motion). “Oh uh maybe in my back yard” was his dumb as rocks response. I was tempted to launch into a rant that they are a gourmet grocery store and snorting at my not-so-out-there request makes them look really low brow and they need customers like me who buy dried mushrooms and rare cheeses and patronize small gourmet markets because they believe in using high quality ingredients! Without people who are passionate about food, stores like this would cease to exist! But I just walked away, took out my phone and called up Zier’s Prime Meats. Yes my butcher is saved in my phone book…what of it?
Of course Mr. Zier came through, he even butchered the rabbit still frozen (a difficult task) so I wouldn’t have to do it at home. (If you’ve watched my YouTube videos you know my knife skills are a little shaky, I nearly chopped off a finger de-boning the birds for my Turducken.) So I carried the little guy home, gave him a bath in some warm water to thaw him out, and got to work on the ragu.
I started by browning the rabbit pieces, de-glazing the pan with some wine, adding sopressatta, olives and herbs, and then I topped it all off with big cans of diced tomatoes. Now I know I’m not the authority on sauce (or gravy) but whenever I can I try to use San Marzano tomatoes to make any kind of red sauce. And by “whenever I can” I mean whenever my parents are paying for the groceries…because they are like four bucks a can. The rabbit braises for a few hours, you then remove it and shred it from the bone, toss is back in the sauce and serve over thick ribbons of pappardelle with lots of Parmesan cheese on top. It was the perfect “impressive, yet homey” dinner party meal. My dad spent some time on foodandwine.com picking out the perfect wine to go with rabbit. We settled on a robust Merlot and it was outstanding. I mostly followed Tom Colicchio’s recipe since it was my first time every dealing with this kind of protein, but I think the next time I would tweak it a little bit. Perhaps add less chicken broth because the base was thinner than I prefer ragus to be. The sopressata was excellent addition, but I thought it could have used more herbs to just punch the flavor up a bit. I paired the ragu with a big salad tossed in bacon vinaigrette and hearty mushroom gallette
So readers the moral of this post is that if at first one butcher is rude, try, try, again. Don’t be shy when it comes to working with uncommon protein, life gets pretty boring cooking chicken all the time doesn’t it? Stay adventurous!
3 tbsp. White Balsmaic
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 tbsp. Dijon
Salt & Pepper
1/2 lb bacon, fried and crumbled
Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and dijon. Stream in the olive oil while whisking until it has reached your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper. Toss with bacon pieces, serve over salad.