It is Saturday afternoon and preparation of my Sunday meal is underway. I began yesterday evening.
Based on your feedback …
- Lapin au Saupiquet – with the new book
- Coniglio in umido – from memory
- Rabbit? You would eat Peter? Bugs!? THUMPER?!?
Total Votes: 791
… about which rabbit dish to make (notice that is which rabbit to make and not whether or not to make rabbit) I chose Lapin au Saupiquet or Rabbit Marinated in Vinegar and Herbs, and stewed in Red Wine.
I am using the recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, provided by a reader, by the way. Oddly, it is the sole rabbit entry in the books.
Here is the new book open to its page. I will make note and also jot the date I made it, animi caussa.
The first step after obtaining the ingredients – and I had a few things on hand useful for this dish – you need to start the marinade.
You start with red wine vinegar. Child’s recipe makes a distinction about the harshness or sharpness of the vinegar and adjusting the recipe accordingly. I thought my vinegar was overly sharp, so I used a smaller amount as she suggested.
You will need juniper berries. I happen to have some on hand because I use them when making pork ribs with sauerkraut, which I did a couple times this winter. They are small, round, and bluish-back. I sorted out those that didn’t look good. Also, I added a few more than Child suggests, simply because I like the flavor, but not so many as you see in my hand, below.
Note that I added an extra bay leaf, simply because they have been around for while and have lost something of their flavor over time.
I didn’t have to buy rabbit… ehem… and I will spare you some of the details.
I did, however, want to trim out some of the fat.
I think this rabbit was more along the lines of Peter than Bugs.
When working with meat, especially poultry, always always always wash everything with very hot water and soap.
Knives, cutting boards, any other utensils, sink, counter top around the area… because stuff splashes and spreads. Even spray them down with disinfectant.
It is just better not to take any risks. Get into a discipline of washing knives and boards right away.
The rabbit in the marinade.
It gets covered and placed in the fridge from Friday night until I will start the cooking process tomorrow, Sunday.
Several times on Saturday, I spoon marinade over the meat and shift it around.
Julia says in the recipe to use a bulb baster, but I don’t have one. Thus, I tip the container and use a spoon.
Note: you don’t have to have liquid covering the meat. Just need to move it around, spoon it over from time to time. The olive oil in the marinade helps the liquid adhere to the surface of the meat.
The marinade both preserves the meat, imparts flavor, and tenderizes.
Remember that meat is muscle. When you put a piece of meat in a very hot pan you will see it instantly start to shrink. That is because the little interlocked muscle fibers, which are protein, contract with heat. When you tenderize (mechanically by pounding, or chemically by wet or dry marinade) you effectively are unbinding the interwoven muscle fibers by breaking down the peptides in the protein, so that when they contract in the heat they don’t make a denser and tough fabric. This is also why cooking meat very slowly helps to make it more tender.
I included the kidneys and liver, but not the head as is often done in Italy, France, etc.
So… tomorrow, Sunday, I will have to make the braising sauce, or sauce au Saupiquet (a sharp sauce for meat, game) which will involve several steps including browning the lardons or think bacon and also the sauce for serving.
The serving sauce will be as Child recommends: the cooking liquid from the rabbit in which I will cook prunes. That will be the only tricky part, I think. I will have to reduce the cooking liquid after removing the rabbit, which I will then keep warm in the cooling oven while I work that last few busy minutes.
For vegetable, Julia suggests “parslied potatoes, buttered noodles, or steamed and buttered rice, and a simple green cegetable such as sauteed zucchini, buttered broccoli, or green beans.” I don’t know. I am leaning in a another direction. I think I will make the famous rutabaga sitting on my counter since the evening the surprise elk arrived. The added bonus is that the person who brought the elk – and ergo the rutabaga – is coming to eat.
Beyond that I am not quite sure. Perhaps asparagus.
UPDATE 23 May – Sunday – 2115 GMT:
Well… it’s done.
This was an intense piece of work for a Sunday, I can tell you.
Kitchen work is pretty hard core when up against a clock. At the end of my prep, I had to go take a shower and change clothes, which is not unusual for working in a hot kitchen and with such ingredients.
To the task.
I decided to make the rutabaga with a recipe I found in the same volume of Julia Child’s book, a purée. It sounds fancier in French… A purée “Châteaux en Suède”.
Not easy work, especially without a food mill! But, I managed. Julia adds a note that the French don’t eagerly turn to rutabaga in classical cooking, because it reminds of the time of terror and famine when people were starving and nothing better would grow. I know that in farms in the USA, in the part of the world I grew up in, when they were clearing land, picking rocks, tearing out stumps with the great “muckle horses” and turning the sod, the first crop was sometimes rutabagas: which would grow in poor soil. But I think they retain something of the bitterness of famine.
A purée “Châteaux en Suède”.
Some shots of this actually went on concurrently with the prep for the rabbit.
What to use?
Eventually I found the knife worked best.
Root veg is often coated in wax. You would do well to work on paper towel or wax paper to save a cutting board cleaning step.
I refer you to Mrs. Child’s recipe.
Into chunks, with butter and salt and water.
Reserve the cooking liquid which you will need later, and start mashing or putting it through a mill.
I would eventually resort to a hand mixer I had out for purposes of dessert. See below.
In the meantime, I had trimmed fat from bacon and rendered some of the fat, which went into a pan.
Flour to make a roux.
Bubble it without browning.
Start mixing in the cooking liquid from the rutabaga. Beat till smooth.
Mix in the rutabaga and add liquid as needed.
Eventually heavy cream goes into this.
In the meantime, at the same time I am doing this, I am also working on the rabbit.. remember the rabbit?
More bacon in the preparation of lardons: cut it up and blanch for a few minutes.
175 – 180 is good…
This helps to strip out some of the fat.
Brown the lardons and add onions and continue to brown.
In the meantime… extract the rabbit from its marinade and, as Julia puts it, “dry thoroughly” with paper towel.
This is important, as anyone who has cooked will tell you. You don’t want to add anything to a pan of hot oil that has cool liquid on it! Bad.
So, be thorough. It also helps the meat to brown, which is the point of this step.
Onions and lardons are browned. Extract and add more oil for the rabbit, going in next.
Brown it well, in stages if necessary. Don’t crowd, or it won’t brown well.
This is stage 2 and I am also browning the innards… liver, kidneys, heart.
When nice and brown, put it in your big casserole and start sprinkling with the flour.
Mix and sprinkle and toss and sprinkle and mix.
The flour has to cook for bit, just as flour has to cook, with fat, for a roux.
So, put this uncovered into a hot oven, 450F, for a few minutes, remove, put back in, cook for a few more, and then take out.
In the meantime, in that same frying pan, start reducing your reserved marinade to half.
Add your bottle of red wine.
Julia made recommendations and I chose a Côtes du Rhône, which was on sale.
This was a Paul Jaboulet Aîné Côtes du Rhône, “Parallèle 45” which has 60% Grenache ; 40% Syrah.
Some Côtes du Rhône have a higher percentage of Grenache, but I wanted a darker flavor and went with the 60/40.
Also, I liked the idea of Parallèle 45, since I grew up in Minneapolis directly on the 45 N latitude, the “45th parallel”.
Anyway, reduce the wine by half and, when reduced, add your additional beef stock and bring to a boil.
Keep your elements warm or hot so they don’t slow your process! Pre-heat your oven, keep your pans warm.
It makes the kitchen hot and it is grubby work, but it goes more smoothly.
I worked as a cook to put myself through grad school and today, with the relatively high temperature, the under-pressure prep and the range ingredients brought it all back in a flash.
In the meantime, how is the cooking flour looking?
Start putting it all together.
And hour later… cooking it covered. It is at a slow but steady bubble.
Extract your rabbit and put on a platter, cover with foil to keep it warm.
There is still a lot to do!
You have to make the sauce.
I used Julia’s suggesting for the serving sauce of prunes.
Effectively, I reduced the braising sauce till thick and then added prunes and the browned innards of the rabbit and cooked them down. Simple.
I made sure the rutabaga purée was okay…. I made my asparagus… I made – oh yes – crescent rolls…. I am so not a good baker.
What to say about the rabbit and sauce…
The sauce had a tang and some sweetness from the prunes. The wine was reminiscent of raisin and strawberry and it was very good for the recipe. I am glad I got the higher percentage of syrah.
I think with the sauce I struck the right point of intensity. I tasted through the last reduction process to get it right.
Slow cooking imparts a depth of flavor that express cooking doesn’t achieve. You need patience for this, and the ability to keep a time line.
The last time I made a post like this, about the boeuf, I mentioned that I sometimes make timelines. I didn’t do that this time, but I probably should have.
I am finding that, so far, Child’s recipes are easy to follow and very sound in their results. You produce what they promise.
Remember when I said I had a hand mixer going?
I made whipped cream.
For the vanilla ice cream with banana and hot fudge.
With strong Colombian dark roast coffee and a shot of Grand Marnier.
This recipe was pretty labor intensive, but, now that I have done it, it would go easier the next time.
The rabbit was very tender and the rutabaga smooth as silk. The sauce, living up to its name was savory.
We had another bottle of the Parallèle 45 with the meal and you could really pick up the harmony of the sauce and wine glass.
I had the bananas on hand.
I had to buy the
So, I probably came in with a grocery bill for this round about $40.
The rabbit was free.
I have enough leftovers for full meal of everything again, so, this would have easily served 6 people.
And thus endeth another Sunday supper.
I may now rest and, later, write my notes in my black book in which I record special meals and also in the cookbook where I will make observations and adjustments.
Make plans for Sunday meals with others.
From John Paul II’s Dies Domini:
72. The Eucharist is an event and programme of true brotherhood. From the Sunday Mass there flows a tide of charity destined to spread into the whole life of the faithful, beginning by inspiring the very way in which they live the rest of Sunday. If Sunday is a day of joy, Christians should declare by their actual behaviour that we cannot be happy “on our own”. They look around to find people who may need their help. It may be that in their neighborhood or among those they know there are sick people, elderly people, children or immigrants who precisely on Sundays feel more keenly their isolation, needs and suffering. It is true that commitment to these people cannot be restricted to occasional Sunday gestures. But presuming a wider sense of commitment, why not make the Lord’s Day a more intense time of sharing, encouraging all the inventiveness of which Christian charity is capable? Inviting to a meal people who are alone, visiting the sick, providing food for needy families, spending a few hours in voluntary work and acts of solidarity: these would certainly be ways of bringing into people’s lives the love of Christ received at the Eucharistic table.