People who know me would tell you that it's hard to tell which I like more: gardening or cooking. I'd say it depends on which I'm doing at the moment. Anyway, French cooking and French gardening go hand in hand. For me, cooking is an on-going adventure. Join me here on my culinary explorations, where I share with you both my old favorites as well as new inspirations. It's my fondest wish that these recipes serve as a springboard for your own new creations.
05/07/2008 Daube of rabbit with rosé, lavender honey and thyme blossoms Clay pot
1 rabbit, cut into pieces
For the broth: The forelegs and forequarter (piece attached to the neck) of the rabbit 1 T. olive oil 1 onion chopped 2 carrots chopped 1 stalk celery chopped Parsley, thyme, bay leaf, pepper corns
For the daube:
The rest of the rabbit 2 T. olive oil 12 new bulb onions, peeled with 2" of tops attached 1 4"-diameter slice coppa, pancetta, or 1 slice ventreche, 1/3" thick, diced 1 onions, grated 1 c. rosé wine 1 c. of the above rabbit broth (freeze the rest to use in soup) 1/4 c. lavender, thyme, or other light honey Salt and pepper Fresh thyme blossoms 1 T. unsalted butter or olive oil
Make the broth. Brown the rabbit pieces in the olive oil on both sides. Add the vegetables and brown 5 minutes, cover with water, skim, add herbs and peppercorns. Cover and simmer over very low heat 2-3 hours. (Rabbit broth is just as delicious as chicken broth to use in soups.) Strain the broth and discard the solids.
Salt and pepper the remaining rabbit pieces. About 1 1/2 hours before serving, heat 1 T. olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Brown the rabbit quickly and thoroughly; remove to a plate. Add the remaining oil and brown the new onions until golden and slightly softenend. Remove to the plate. Add the grated onion and coppa or pancetta to the pan. Stir to cook 3-5 minutes. Do not allow to become dark brown. Place this mixture in the bottom of the daubière or other clay flame-proof cooking pot with a lid. Deglaze the skillet with the wine, reducing by half. Add the broth and reduce slightly. Stir in the honey.
Pack the rabbit pieces and onions into the daubière, sprinkling thyme blossoms between and over them (use about 2 T. of the tips of flowering thyme sprigs.) Pour the sauce from the skillet over the contents of the daubière. Add the butter or olive oil (extra virgin throughout). Place the daubière on a flame tamer over low heat. Cover. After the pot starts heating up, increase the heat to medium. When the liquid around the rabbit starts to boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for around 1/2 hour, or until the rabbit flesh pulls away from the bone easily with a fork. Start testing after about 20 minutes' cooking. Be careful not to overcook or the rabbit will be dry. Garnish with additional fresh thyme blossoms. Serve with polenta and mixture of very green vegetables, such as fresh peas, favas, and asparagus.
Note: Squeamish about rabbit or just haven't tried it? Rabbit is perfectly mild and delicous, and practically fat-free. Plus, it is perhaps the most environmentally friendly animal protein. Rabbit is quick and easy to raise on a bit of grass and vegetable scraps. If you know a rabbit farmer, make sure to patronize him or her. Or buy frozen rabbit. This dish is full of summery flavors and frankly delicious. The daubière keeps the rabbit flesh moist and silky. Serve with a crisp rosé.