by Lapin Agile
A French country rabbit hunting story and a delicious feast with recipe
A Rabbit's Tale
As we all know, back in the 19th Century, this succulent dish was called le lapin à la dijonnaise or Rabbit, Dijon-Style. These days I find there are more rabbit dishes than there are rabbits to be had. Rabbit stew takes me back to those days when, as a child, we would spend our holidays, all together en famille, at the house tucked away in the Brittany countryside, and in the winter months it was colder than... well let's just say it was very cold and damp. But when our delightful housekeeper and cook made her famous rabbit dish it was guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's face and we quickly forgot about our Spartan surroundings and the deep cold. I will spare you the details of the early morning execution of said "wabbit" other than to mention that he was un-ceremoniously marched down the gravel path to the back garden to the old apple tree where he was then offered to smoke his last Gauloise. The country cook's weapon of choice was a long, rather menacing looking, razor sharp kitchen knife with a well worn handle; it might well have been left from another century. The deed was swift and efficient. I was offered the trophy of a limp rabbit to carry back to the kitchen. Country living at its finest.
One morning over the recent holidays I put on my tweeds (cap included) and work boots and ventured into the field behind the house followed of course by my good and trusty friend Mister Louie who believes himself, like me, to be quite the hunter. The rabbit is a small-sized animal which means that we manly hunters do not need powerful rabbit hunting guns, rather what we need is a gun that offers accuracy above all else. I won't bore you with details of the Great White Hunter but I shot at what I thought were definitely rabbits missing more than a few times until I ran out of buckshot. By then, my dog had retreated to the safety of our home with his tail still intact. I was left out in the fields with no other option than to present myself, hat in hand, before Marcel my local butcher, who grinned and promptly pulled a rabbit out of his hat or beret from under the counter. In any event, I had the dish (below) for New Year's Eve dinner and it was a spectacular success!! I chose a great wine from the southern Rhone valley, Chateau Pesquie Terrasses. It was a no brainer selection after all what better wine than one from the part of the country where people live long comfortable lives in the sun and rabbits, well their days are numbered.
Rabbit in Mustard Sauce
This recipe (modified) comes from David Tanis, a chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.
2 rabbits (about 2 1⁄2 lbs. each),each cut into 6–8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 lb. pancetta or unsmoked bacon, cut into 1⁄4"-thick strips
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 1⁄2 cups crème fraîche **Note: If you do not have any CF use 1/2 cup each of sour cream and whipping cream (for 1 cup) and let stand for 12 hours; or use Mascarpone cheese as an alternative.
1 cup Dijon mustard
1 - 2 cups white wine
2 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh sage
2 tsp. black or yellow mustard seeds, crushed
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 bay leaves
1. Season rabbit generously with salt and pepper and place in a large bowl along with remaining ingredients. Don't go stingy on the mustard as some of the flavor will get lost in cooking.
2. Mix together with your hands until rabbit pieces are coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
3. If rabbit has been chilled, allow it to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 400° and arrange a rack in the middle of oven.
4. Divide rabbit in a single layer between 2 shallow roasting pans and top with any of the remaining marinade.
5. Roast the rabbit, add the wine, turning wabbit once and basting with pan juices occasionally, until the juices have reduced and rabbit is cooked through, about 55 minutes.
6. With 15 minutes left to go on the cooking, add the mushrooms.
7. Set oven to broil and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Serve rabbit with pan juices.
Add 8 small Red Potatoes, quartered to the dish mid way through the cooking cycle that way they will absorb all the delicious juices. Finger-licking good mes amis.
Chinon Val de Loire
Coteaux du Languedoc
Tardieu-Laurent 2007 Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Les Becs Fins
Terrasses Chateau Pesquie 2008- Ventoux Rhône Valley
Savigny-les-Beaune Cote de Beaune