Friday, May 30, 2008

Rabbit Stew

There were some pretty strong reactions when I told my friends that I was going to make rabbit stew. One friend called me a "rabbit murderer." My response? "The rabbit is already dead, I just happened to buy him from the market!" However, I do understand why people get a little bit upset over rabbit. After all, they're cute and cuddly mammals. It's not like a chicken...nasty little peckerhead. However, I don't make a distinction between animal proteins. To me, an animal has died so I can eat. Their sacrifice demands my respect no matter how ugly or cute the beastie might've been. I feel like Hawkeye and Chingachgook from Last of the Mohicans. If you understand this, you get an automatic pass into the Budget College Cook pantheon of fame.

Kind of a funny story how I found myself buying a rabbit. Since I'd recently finished my final year of college, I considered going out to a fancy dinner. However, I didn't exactly have the money but still wanted to celebrate. I settled on buying some sort of protein that I had previously avoided due to its prohibitive cost. The other contestants were duck breasts, Kobe beef and squab but rabbit won. And it certainly wasn't cheap...around $10.50/lb. Having purchased the rabbit, I wasn't really sure what to do with it so I had to do lots of research. Stews seemed pretty easy and most books said that a rabbit is actually pretty easy to cut up...just follow the natural lines of the meat and the rest basically takes care of itself. I've made two videos. WARNING--NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH. AVOID-AVOID-AVOID IF YOU DON'T LIKE REMEMBERING THAT MEAT COMES FROM ANIMALS!



I hope you found the videos interesting. I know I do so I thought I'd share what I find to be a fascinating subject.

This recipe comes from The River Cottage Meat Book. As I haven't really had the time to fully explore this book, I hesitate to enthusiastically recommend it but what I've read so far has been a call to arms regarding factory raised meat. The author really creates a strong, logical argument for abstention from mass-produced meat while simultaneously building a case for naturally, lovingly raised meat. I've met a few vegetarians who turned veg because of factory farming practices. However, taking a stand against factory farms doesn't necessarily mean that you need to stop eating meat...just stop eating factory farmed and start eating family farmed! At the very least, if you're in a bookstore and see this book, pick it up and read the first 10-15 pages. Remember what Socrates said: "The unexamined life is not worth living."

Oh yah, let me also make a confession...I had assumed that because I bought the rabbit at the fancy, expensive butcher that the bunny had previously led a pampered existence. WRONG! When I got home and did some research, it was a rabbit factory farm. The lesson? Don't be afraid to ask the hard question while at the butcher.

INGREDIENTS (Quantities have been slightly altered)

1 rabbit (mine was around 3 pounds)
4 ounces of bacon (Try to find bacon made from naturally raised pigs...not as difficult as it sounds.)
olive oil
1 large onion, thickly sliced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1.5 inch lengths
4 celery stalks cut into 1.5 inch lengths
2 bay leaves
a sprig of thyme, if handy (the recipe's wording, not mine)
2 cups of hard cider (the cookbook is English and I have no idea what English hard cider is like...I ended up buying an artisinal French hard cider which was fermented completely dry...I don't recommend this...get something with some leftover residual sugar)
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Gently fry the bacon until it is lightly browned and the fat runs. Transfer the pieces of meat to a flameproof casserole but leave the frying pan on the heat. Brown the rabbit pieces in the bacon fat, in batches, transferring them to the casserole as they are done. Finally, sweat the onion in the same pan but do not allow it to color. Add the carrots, celery, bay leaves and thyme to the casserole. (I kinda avoided this whole casserole business. I cooked the bacon and transferred it to a bowl...browned the rabbit in the bacon fat and transferred the browned pieces to a plate. Sweated the onion in the bacon fat and moved the onions to another bowl. He just wants you to have, from bottom up, bacon, rabbit, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves and you get there is your own business!)

Push everything around so it is fairly tightly packed, then pour over the cider. Add a little water if necessary to cover the meat. Add the honey and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook at a very low, tremulous simmer for 1.25 hours or until the rabbit is completely tender. You can also cook this in a 250F oven with a lid on the pot. (I used the oven.)

Serve with plenty of the juice ladled over, with mashed potatoes.

Time-30 minutes of prep work, browning. 1.25 hours of cooking.

Rabbit- $33.00
Bacon- $2.00
Cider- $8.50
Veggies- $2.00
Total- $45.50..I'm going to get 6 meals out of the $7.58 per serving...pretty expensive, by my standards.



LaMatra said...

awww..poor bunny wabbit...
R.I.P bugs bunny (-_-)

Anonymous said...

It's funny, in England, rabbit is a cheap meat. It's uncommon, but when you do find it in a butcher's, it's cheaper than beef or lamb. I don't know why - maybe we have hordes of angry gardeners murdering them and providing a ready supply?

On the subject of our cider, French cider is probably a decent replacement. Ours varies from sweet to dry, but 'proper' cider is at the dry end, and has a very complex, slightly rotten-apple, flavour. Which you may or may not like!