Like many gardeners, I have gone through the springtime routine of planting lettuce and peas but never harvesting them. Instead of ending up on my kitchen table, these vegetables have ended up in the stomachs of a band of voracious rabbits.
The usual anti-rabbit measures -- fences, dried blood and hair clippings -- have failed to deter my furry foes. This year, I am changing tactics. Rather than trying to prevent the rabbits from eating my garden, I am going to try to eat them.
I called my friend Janie Hib-ler in her Portland, Ore., home and pumped her for rabbit recipes. She had plenty. She is the author of several books, including "Wild About Game" (Broadway Books), a comprehensive work that has been nominated for a James Beard cookbook award.
Rabbit is just like chicken, she said. It does best when it is cooked with the moist-heat technique of braising.
These days most of the rabbit meat on the market comes from game farms, not gardens, she said. A few years ago, farm-raised rabbit had a reputation of being puny and bony. But recently researchers, especially a warren of them working at Oregon State University, have developed a meatier rabbit, she said.
She told me these plumper, farm-raised rabbits taste very good when they are cooked with Madeira. She gave me the following recipe.
I told her I was eager to try the recipe, but I didn't want to use farm-raised rabbits. Instead, I hoped to use some garden-fed rabbits, the ones that have mowed down my peas.
Braised Rabbit With Madeira
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or substitute 1 tablespoon olive oil for 1 tablespoon of the butter
4 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms, sliced
3-pound rabbit, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
1/4 cup grainy mustard
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 cup homemade chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup Madeira
1/2 cup cream or half and half
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter or oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and mushrooms, and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to soften. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
Coat the rabbit pieces with mustard and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In the same skillet, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add the rabbit. Saute over medium heat until well browned. Remove the rabbit pieces and deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the bottom as it cooks to release the caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Return the rabbit to the pan and add the mushrooms, tarragon, chicken stock and Madeira. Simmer, covered, until the rabbit is tender and loose on the bone, about 50 minutes. Remove the rabbit pieces and the mushrooms from the pan. Discard the grease, then reduce the liquid by half. Add the cream, then reduce again until the sauce is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Put the rabbit pieces and mushrooms back in the sauce to reheat and serve garnished with the parsley.
-- From "Wild About Game"
Pub Date: 05/02/99