Monday, October 09, 2006

Oh dear! A Rabbit's Tale

On Friday last week there was a food market in Whitecross Street just round the corner from work so I shimmied down at lunchtime, mostly looking for a treat to eat and curious to see which producers would be there. It was pouring with rain so the crowds weren't exactly thronging. Lots of the stall holders were also sellers at Borough like Shellseekers, Dupond Bakery and Silfield Farm, so I happily scoffed fresh grilled scallops and bacon on the shell while I wandered about.

There were also a couple of game dealers that I'd not seen before. I have been thinking of cooking rabbit recently - the meat is inexpensive and I have always enjoyed it when I've eaten it in restaurants. One of the dealers had oven ready wild rabbits for £2.50 so, figuring I couldn't go wrong, I bought one. At home I found a fabulous sounding dish of rabbit with sherry and garlic and smoked bacon in Fergus Henderson's Nose to Tail Eating and I settled on making it as a full on treat for dinner Saturday.

It is rare that I cook something that is completely, irredeemably inedible.

I took the rabbit from its plastic bag and the lovely boyfriend, wielding the cleaver like a pro, chopped it into half a dozen pieces. It smelt, strongly and unmistakably, like a stable. Vaguely daunted, but not dissauded from my plan, we washed the pieces and patted them dry. It is no doubt obvious to the reader that it is probably not possible to wash away the smell of horse dung with a quick rinse under the cold tap but I was hoping that slow cooking in the aromatics and sherry would transform the wee beastie.

I browned the meat, which didn't help the smell, then cooked the bacon and shallots which gave off a wonderful aroma. I put the meat back, added stock and wine and sherry and 40 cloves of garlic and set the pot to cook. Ninety minutes later the rabbit didn't look cooked to the point of falling off the bone so it went back into the oven for another half hour. Then too it didn't seem ready but we were starving for our supper so the pot went back while I made a fast and decadent repast of fried egg sandwiches.

I left the pan in for another half hour, then let it cool overnight, planning to have the casserole for dinner Tuesday. But when I removed the lid Sunday morning, there was the unmistakable waft of horse in amongst the pleasant smoky bacon sweetish sherry aroma. This was not a 'slight mustiness' - it was full on rank. My sweetheart had a sniff and insisted it should go straight into the bin and out the door without pause.

It's a shame but it was defintely inedible. I will try it again - I'm still convinced that it will be great with a bonny bunny - but this time I'll use a game dealer I trust.

Here's the recipe because I'm convinced it will make a hearty dish.
Rabbit and Garlic
A healthy splash of olive oil
1 rabbit, chopped into sections
sea salt and pepper
150g/5oz smked streaky bacon, cut into chunks and rind reserved
12 shallots, peeled but kept whole
30-40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled but separated
150ml dry sherry
300ml white wine
1/2 litre chicken stock
1 bay leaf
A bundle of fresh thyme and parsley, tied together
Get a large ovenproof pot with a lid, place on the heat and pour in enough olive oil to just cover the bottom. Season the rabbit pieces with slat and pepper and when the oil is hot brown the rabbit. When you are happy with the hue, remove the pieces from the pot (if all the oil has gone with them add another splash).
Put in the bacon, its skin, and the shallots. Allow to sizzle, and stir for 10 minutes, not letting them burn. Now return the rabbit to the pot and add the garlic, sherry, wine, stock, bay leaf and finally the bundle of herbs. Check the seasoning. Bring to a boil, straight away reduce to a simmer, place the lid on and put the pot into a warm to hot oven for approximately 11/2 hours, but keep an eye on it and check the meat for giving qualities with a sharp knife ( not quite but soon to fall off the bone ).
Serve hot straight from the pot, encouraging your fellow diners to suck the flesh from the unpeeled garlic cloves, which will now be sweet and delicious. For the juices you need both bread and napkins.
If you have a good rabbit - try it. I'm sure it will be good.

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