Rabbit stars in German dish

October 24, 2007|By Robin Mather Jenkins | Robin Mather Jenkins,Chicago Tribune

How do good old dishes get forgotten? In our chop-chop-steak world, we often forget about the fine flavors that come from something long marinated and slowly braised.

We also forget about whole families of meats, especially game. I know more men who hunt than any of my colleagues, but that's largely because my husband comes from a family of hunters. Venison, duck, pheasant, quail and various fish are commonplace at family gatherings.

No matter. The man of the house doesn't need a shotgun for you to make this old German standby, hasenpfeffer ("pepper(ed) hare" in German). You just have to remember to marinate it two days before you want to cook it. Traditionally, the highly acidic marinade, rich with vinegar and red wine, would have tenderized the meat of a hare of an uncertain age in a two-day bath. Today, with young rabbits already cut up and available in most supermarket freezer cases, letting the meat marinate for that long simply provides additional flavor.

I've conflated recipes from The Joy of Cooking and allrecipes.com to make one that's most like I remember eating at my mother's table. If rabbit's not easy to find, try this same recipe with a cut-up broiler-fryer chicken of about the same weight.

Robin Mather Jenkins writes for the Chicago Tribune, which provided the recipe analysis.

Marinated Braised Rabbit (Hasenpfeffer)

Makes 4 servings

1/2 pound bacon, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 cups red-wine vinegar or cider vinegar

2 cups water

6 cloves garlic, crushed

3 bay leaves

1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon each: dried thyme, dried basil, whole cloves, whole allspice, crushed black peppercorns

1/8 teaspoon mace (optional)

1 rabbit, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed, cut into 6 pieces

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels to drain. Transfer to food storage bag; refrigerate.

Add the celery, carrots and onion to the bacon fat in the Dutch oven; cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 8 minutes.

Pour in the vinegar; cook, scraping up browned bits, about 1 minute. Add the water, garlic, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, basil, cloves, allspice, peppercorns and mace, if using.

Cover; heat to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer; cook 1 hour. Set aside to cool, about 1 hour. Add the rabbit pieces to the marinade. Transfer to food storage bags, if desired. Refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.

Remove rabbit from marinade; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Remove bacon from refrigerator; set aside. Combine flour, salt and pepper to taste in a large food storage bag. Add the rabbit pieces, in small batches, shaking to coat. Reserve remaining seasoned flour.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the rabbit, in batches if necessary, turning until golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Strain the reserved marinade through a sieve into the pan.

Add cooked bacon; heat to a boil. Cover; place in oven. Cook until the rabbit is tender, about 2 hours. Transfer rabbit to a platter; keep warm. Place Dutch oven over medium heat; heat pan juices to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup of the reserved seasoned flour with 1/4 cup water in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid; cover. Shake thoroughly.

Stir the flour-water mixture into the Dutch oven; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Pour gravy over rabbit.

Per serving: 757 calories, 33 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 207 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrate, 76 grams protein, 845 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber

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