“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Making Rabbit Stew

This post is about making rabbit stew, but it's also about hunting and not wasting food.  Rabbits are pests in New Zealand, and every year there is an Easter Bunny Hunt on the South Island. In 2010, the highest number ever shot in 24 hours was recorded with over 24,000 rabbits, hares, and other pests shot. Boggles the mind, doesn't it? Rather than let these animals go to waste, they can be prepared in a stew and eaten. I have this lovely Meat cookbook by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall with a recipe for rabbit stew, and decided to give it a go.
Darin and I visited some rural dwelling friends and had dinner and drinks with them this past summer. Darin shot a couple rabbits, and I cleaned them and stuck them in the freezer. Here is the outline of the steps in pictures.
This looks really gross, doesn't it? It's the whole rabbit, skinned and gutted and wrapped in plastic.  It's hard to imaging eating this, but just wait, it gets better.
I am aware that this looks very much like a cat. I assure you, it is not. My cat assures you, too. Here I am trimming off the fascia, that is, the tissue between the skin and muscles. It can trap dirt and fur, so I'm pretty careful about cleaning it as best as I can. Thos legs still have the fur on them. I pulled out my bitchin' meat cleaver and chopped those off- whack, whack. The dogs ate them up, yum.
I am never lonely in the kitchen. I have my fuzzy clean-up crew to help.
Here it is looking a lot less like an animal, and more like a piece of meat. I've cut the legs and arms off. Those two long muscles along the spine are the loin- that's the best part. I think I cleaved off the hips and ribs for pet food. The recipe calls for two rabbits, as you don't wind up with a whole lot of meat with only one.

You can use whatever sort of bacon you like, but I used pancetta. The recipe calls for a lot of it to be cubed and fried as the first step. Once it's browned, remove pancetta from the pan and brown the rabbit pieces. As these are browned, move them into your dutch oven.
In the next step, you add the other ingredients: carrots, onion, thyme, celery, water, and hard cider. Then you can cook it slow either on the stovetop or in the oven, covered, for several hours. I assume you could do this equally well in a slow cooker.
The final step is to remove the meat to a plate and keep warm in the oven, covered. The veggies are removed from the liquid, and the liquid is boiled down. Then you add cream. I think I added some porcini cream as well (something I found at Sabato).
The final result doesn't plate up beautifully, but it is sexy and delicious anyway. I serve it with boiled potatoes to mash into that luscious cream sauce. To be fair, I must say that wild rabbit can be tough. You might have to eat it off the bone with your hands, like chicken. The younger animals are more tender, and farmed rabbit probably the most tender. Either way, the flavor is really nice.
As far as finding rabbit in your grocery- good luck with that. The reason we went hunting for the varmits is they cost about $21 each at my local butchery.  Don't ask me why so much- it's not like they're rare. Still, if you can find them in a butcher shop, it will save you the gore of gutting the dead animals. It doesn't bother me, because I know Thumper lived as as happy, natural, free range bunny until his quick death, and Darin and I appreciated the animal, instead of wasting it.