Retreating to our camp in the northern savage fastness of New York State, I am looking forward to perfecting some game recipes. I may even start hunting a little to save money and imbue a little more gaminess into the game.
I picked up a book claiming to be a Cordon Bleu home cooking course. Many of the recipes are simple, but a few are gamier than what most Americans probably relate to.
Last night, with a ’79 Talbot (which I had hoped would be a little more sauvage than it turned out to be) at our sides, we tried our first recipe from the book, which was quite simple but tastier than I expected.
First you cut up a rabbit like they show you in the book (which was a lot of fun) basically into serving size pieces. Back legs were cut in half, while the front legs remained whole. The long body was cut into six pieces, buy first cutting it into three tube-shaped pieces and then cutting them in half. The top piece with the ribs was cut front to back, and the other two along the spine. Then you salt and pepper the pieces lightly and with a pastry brush, coat them with whole-grain mustard.
Next you roast the pieces in glass roasting dish at 450 for a half an hour, after coating it with some butter. After that, sprinkle a couple of chopped up large shallots over the pieces and roast it all for another five minutes. Then add a half a cup or so of white wine, roast another 10 minutes; then ¾ cup of heavy cream, and roast another five minutes.
Cordon Bleu suggested serving the lapin with pasta, but we substituted small, red baked potatoes, pureed rutabaga, and Brussels sprouts, which seemed to work fine.
As I mentioned, we were surprised at how flavorful this simple meal was. But I have a couple of questions:
It was a bit rubbery. Lynn and I didn’t mind the texture, but if such a dish were served at the Gramercy Tavern, it would have been much tenderer. (I know because I had rabbit there recently.) My question is: how would you make the rabbit tender?
It was a four-pounder, which means the live rabbit probably weighed seven or eight pounds: a big, maybe old, animal. Would a three-pounder be a better bet?
Secondly, the heat was high. But the texture of the rabbit surface (with adhered sauce) was excellent, which might be why they recommend the high heat. Last, the meat was cooked more well done than we would have selected. Not a touch of pink anywhere, including in the big thighs. If we cooked it at a lower heat or for less time, would that help; or would we sacrifice some of the taste that came from the heat and time?
We will keep experimenting, but any suggestions for improving this dish would be appreciated. Next weekend we’ll try a pheasant recipe!