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Posts tagged ‘hare’

All About Wild Hare

This small, common game animal has been a part of the human diet since early history, and bone remains have been discovered in ancient caves in Greece dating back to 15,000 BC. While rabbit boasts a mild flavor, wild hare appeals mostly to ardent game lovers, as its red meat is distinctly gamey in flavor.

Although both animals are from the same family, they are from different genera: hare is Lepus and rabbit is Oryctolagus. Hares are larger, weighing anywhere from 5 to 8 pounds. They have longer ears, and larger hind legs and feet. In spite of their names, American jackrabbits and snowshoe rabbits are both hares. The cottontail, however, is a rabbit.

The flesh of hare is darker, and the legs always need long, slow braising to become tender and less gamy. The saddles are best served rare. Because of its assertiveness, hare loves aggressive flavors—dried fruits, rich wines, wild mushrooms—as its partners. A slow bath in a hearty red wine and dried cherries, or a full-bodied port wine with fresh thyme does wonders to temper a hare.

Of all the ways to prepare a hare, the most noble is surely Lièvre à la Royale—boned hare stuffed with foie gras and forcemeat. Rolled and braised in wine and stock, the hare is then sliced and presented with quenelles and sauce (often made with egg yolks and foie gras). “Royal hare” is a labor-intensive dish likely developed for French monarchy, and passed down into the annals of culinary history as a legendary dish, on the life list of nearly every gourmand. It is claimed to be one of the most challenging dishes in French cooking, but it rewards with intense, concentrated flavor and richness.

Photo from the blog Paris by Mouth

Hare has been a constant from the royal table to the peasant kitchen, as jugged hare will attest. References to this classic recipe appear in England before the Roman invasion, where it was long considered fare for poor country folk. A recipe for jugged hare was recorded in an early 18th century cookbook, and the French make it, too, calling it civet de lièvre. To jug a hare is to cut it into pieces, marinate and cook it in red wine and juniper berries in a tall jug standing inside a pan of water. Traditionally, the hare’s blood is added to the sauce.

Civet de Lièvre Recipe

Older hare can be tough so many braising and stewing recipes were developed to tenderize the meat. Roasting is only used for young animals, but when hunting animals it’s hard to pick and choose which one you get. Like all game meat, wild hare is lean, so if benefits from moist cooking like braising and stewing.

At D’Artagnan, wild Scottish brown hare (Lepus europaeus) is procured in weekend estate hunts organized from mid-September to February, and is immediately processed in a facility supervised by the European Economic Community Inspectors. Like all our wild, hunted game, hare may contain shot, so chew with care.

RECIPE SUGGESTIONS:
Braised Legs of Wild Hare in Thyme-Port Wine Sauce
Lièvre à la Royale Garnished with Ziti in Wine-Cream Sauce and Beet Mousseline

Save the Date: Game Dinner at Daniel

For more information, and to buy tickets, email Julia Murphy.

 jmurphy@danielnyc.com

All About Rabbit

Before you get all weak in the knees and start humming a Disney tune, let’s examine the facts about eating rabbit meat. The Italians and French eat rabbit the way Americans eat chicken, which is to say, quite often. Rabbit meat is tender, lean, delicious and as versatile as chicken, to which it can also be compared in taste. Rabbits are easy to raise in small spaces, especially in urban or suburban settings, and true to their reputation, reproduce quickly.

They are an ideal source of protein for all these reasons, and yet, the United States has yet to embrace a rabbit revolution on the plate. Sure, when times are tough, people will turn to backyard rabbit hutches, like they did during the Depression and both world wars. But there’s something about the bunny that makes us think “pet” not “pan.”

Frank Stitt’s Rabbit Torino

Eating Rabbit
Rabbits have likely been hunted and eaten since before recorded history, though we do know that around 1000 BC the Phoenicians reached Spain and started to domesticate the wild rabbits they found there. These Old World rabbits were native to North Africa and Spain, but human exploration spread them around the globe. Now rabbits exist on nearly every continent –though they haven’t invaded Antarctica yet. In places where they have no natural predators, like Australia and New Zealand, rabbits are viewed as pests, since they devour agricultural crops, and hunts are organized to reduce their numbers.

Eating rabbit is quite common in the Mediterranean, especially in Italy and France, who are responsible for the highest production and consumption of rabbit in Europe. Typical menus in Italy feature rabbit in cacciatoreragu and lasagna. Because rabbit meat can also be very dry, it is often found in stews or recipes that involved simmering or braising in an aromatic broth. The mildness of the meat is often accented with the bold flavors of fennel, mustard, olives, anchovies or tomatoes. In France, rabbit is classically served with mustard, either Dijon or a coarse, grainy style. In the United States, this is the dish most likely to appear on the menus of French restaurants in the early days of their influence. Today, there is a rabbit renaissance going on. Chefs who have been influenced by the nose-to-tail philosophy, and who are interested in issues of sustainability are discovering that rabbit is right in so many ways. Urban farmers are teaching others how to raise rabbits in small backyards, and even how to slaughter and cook them. Food writers are asking questions about this neglected source of protein, and coming up with some interesting conclusions. If we eat pigs and chickens, there seems to be no logical reason to recoil at the thought of rabbit on the menu.

Recipe_White_Rabbit_Lasagna

White Rabbit Lasagna

 

Wild vs. Farmed
When we do eat rabbit, it is generally farm raised, not wild, since selling hunted game is not legal in the United States. For a taste of the wild variety, hunted on game preserves in Scotland and shipped within 24 hours to the D’Artagnan warehouse, try our Wild Scottish Hare in season. Hare has a decidedly gamey-tasting red meat that is dark and lean, quite different than the pink, milder meat of the farmed rabbit. It is, in fact, from a different genera than the rabbit, though similar in appearance.

Farmed rabbit is usually a cross between the California white and New Zealand white, the two most tender of rabbit breeds. These are far better eating than the tough, strong-flavored rabbits that early American pioneers existed on during their trek across the country. That’s because of the breed, and how much their diet determines the flavor of their meat; rabbits are fed sweet alfalfa hay, oats, wheat and barley, not strong greens like kale or cabbage, to preserve the animal’s delicate flavor.

John Vaast’s Rabbit Terrine

Cooking

If you are cooking a young rabbit (8 to 12-weeks old), called a fryer, which will be more tender than the older roasters(15-20 weeks), you can fry or roast it. The roasters, contrary to their name, need slow, moist cooking, like braising.

If you are cooking rabbit parts, try the saddle or loin, which are the most tender of the cuts. The front legs are tiny and are best to set aside for stock or stew. The hind legs are tough and almost always need a moist braise. Lean rabbit meat really begs for bacon, or ventreche, to add some fat and protect it during cooking. So don’t be shy with the duck fat, olive oil, or bacon.

Upcoming Event: Game Dinner at Daniel

For more information, and to buy tickets, click here. Update: As of 10/28/11 this event is sold out.