What are you serving on Easter? We have some classic, fresh spring preparations for family favorites like heritage ham, lamb, and rabbit.
Before you get all weak in the knees and start humming a Disney tune, let’s examine the facts about eating rabbit meat.
With 15% off all the cuts fit to braise right now, let’s look at some classic recipes for braising, shall we?
1. Rabbit. This Irish recipe by the inimitable Colman Andrews has hard cider in the braising liquid. Which is also really nice for drinking while your rabbit simmers.
Duckspotting is snapping & sending in pics of dishes from your favorite restaurants, made with D’Artagnan ingredients! We supply restaurants all over the country & love to see what creative chefs are doing with our products. Keep sending them in!
Where: Rotisserie Georgette
What: Chef Chad Brauze’s Rabbit Stuffed with Bacon & Savora Mustard, which is served with crispy Brussels sprouts tossed with lemon zest and lemon juice.
How: Rotisserie Georgette is at 14 E. 6oth Street (Madison/5th) in Manhattan, NY 10022 | for reservations, call (212) 390-8060
Dining out & spot some fabulous dishes made with D’Artagnan ingredients? Snap a pic & email with the details to email@example.com
Because we are offering 15% off our favorite cuts for braising this week, we thought it was the perfect time to share some tips for this technique.
Braising is comfort cooking at its finest, and it’s surprisingly easy. And while you may be inclined to keep the dishes all to yourself, braising is a great option for entertaining. With most of the hands-on work completed before the dish even goes into the oven there is ample time to spend with guests, and as the braise cooks it warms your home with an enticing, rich perfume. A larger batch is no more work, yet leaves enough for leftovers, no sharing required. Here are some of our braising basics.
There is really only one piece of special equipment needed for braising – the vessel. You should always use a high-quality, non-reactive, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Your pot should be deep enough to hold all of your ingredients while allowing about two inches of space at the top for evaporation and condensation, or self-basting, as we like to call it. If in doubt, always go up a size. Some specialty pots have features that enhance this moisture up/moisture down process, like a cocotte which has small spikes on the underside of the lid allowing for continuous self-basting, or a doufeu, a pot with a recessed lid to which you add ice to speed up condensation. These features are nice but often come with a hefty price tag. For basic braising, we recommend a simple Dutch oven made from enameled cast iron as it conducts and holds heat evenly and can be used to both brown the meat stovetop, then finish braising in the oven for true one-pot cooking.
The long & short of it
There are two basic types of braising: short and long. Short braising, or cuisson à l’étuvée in French, is great for vegetables, small birds and lean, tender poultry such as chicken or rabbit. It’s a fast process by which you quickly brown the ingredients in fat then add a flavorful liquid and barely simmer until just cooked through. The entire process is finished in less than an hour. Long braising or, braisage, uses similar techniques but achieves something different entirely. Tough cuts of meat such as short ribs, shoulders, shanks and briskets are browned in fat, then liquid and aromatics are added and the dish is cooked at very low temperature, staying below a simmer, for a long period of time. Cooking meat slow and low breaks down the sinewy connective tissue, first into collagen, then melting into gelatin. The cooking liquid reduces to become the accompanying rich and complex sauce.
When browning meat for braising, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, never skip this step as browning the meat is an essential part of the braising process and your dish will lack flavor without it. Lean or tender cuts should be patted dry for a more intense browning effect. Fatty cuts should be dusted with flour pre-searing to develop a nice crust that will help to hold juices in. Heat your oil (duck fat works beautifully!) over high flame until quite hot then add your meat. Get the meat evenly brown and crusty on all sides. Be mindful not to crowd the pan, working in batches if necessary.
The fork-tender meat may get top billing in braised dishes but the rich, luscious sauce is just as important. This long gentle method of cooking does most of the sauce work for you. There are some subtle tweaks you can make at the end of cooking to adjust the final product and really make your dish shine. If your sauce is thinner than you’d like, simply move some of the liquid to a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat. When thickened, add back into the pot. If your sauce is too thick, add some hot broth or wine and simmer. If you were over-generous with your seasoning, add a peeled potato or two during cooking. The starch will absorb a bit of the salt. Discard them before serving. Not enough flavor? Add freshly chopped herbs, citrus zest or spices at the very end of cooking and offer a bit at the table for garnish. Not enough body? At the end of cooking, shave in a small amount of bitter chocolate! It’s a professional kitchen secret that few chefs will reveal. A light hand will yield spectacular results. If your dish is too fatty, simply chill the whole pot in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to discard. The extra time allows the flavors to marry and concentrate too. If you’re short on time, you can also let it rest for a half hour then skim the top with a shallow spoon.
When reheating, remove the meat from the thickened sauce and bring it to a low boil then toss the meat back in just to heat through.
Braised dishes freeze beautifully – make a big pot, freeze individual portions in airtight containers and enjoy on a cold, rainy day.
Braised meats also make fantastic leftovers. Try adding to tacos or burritos, shepherd’s pie, pasta, sandwiches or salads.
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.”
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 cacciatore, ragu 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.
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.
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.