Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rabbit Confit

On my weekend off while teaching Shakespeare in VT last summer, my cohorts and I tooled around the Northeast Kingdom sampling its many delicacies. Before reaching Parker Pie for lunch, we saw a roadside sign whose gravitational pull had turned the wheel of my car before my brain knew what was happening. I believe it said "custom meat processing," or something along those lines.

I left with a frozen rabbit and having gotten a tour of the walk-in fridges where moose and bear sometimes hang. I don't have the name of the place with me, but my dear friend Maria Gould wrote a profile of the processor in a recent issue of Meatpaper.

The bunny hibernated in my freezer for several months until I worked up the nerve to make a confit. I had made neither rabbit nor confit before, and I was a little skeptical. Why use a technique that requires tons of fat when I know I'd be perfectly happy with a much leaner, cheaper braise?

While breaking down the bunny I was confronted with its very animal-like animalness. This is was no chicken or cow whose friendly shape has been ingrained in my food psyche since childhood. This was no animal: this was a creature. It's shape made me think of my dog, and I don't want to eat my dog. We should always experience such reflection before chowing down on something that used to walk (or hop) this earth.

I slid the bunny parts into a warm bath of olive oil along with a sliced bulb of fennel, a handful of kumquats from a recent trip to FL, rosemary, garlic, and a heaping handful of juniper berries.

Several hours later, the rabbit, and everything else for that matter, was succulent and tender. I pulled the meat and put it back into the aromatic fat along with the spices, fruit and veggies until I could decide on what to do with my rich bounty.

Our preferred method -- largely due to expediency -- was to simply pour some of the confit over slices of slightly toasted homemade bread. We also ate it tossed with steamed potatoes, and I'm sure it would have been lovely over pasta, though we didn't get to that.

The juniper berries were musky and spicy, the kumquats sweet and tangy, the fennel fennely. Was it good? Of course it was good. Who, besides a vegetarian, vegan, rabbit, or olive, wouldn't enjoy gads of golden olive oil laced with butter soft bunny flesh?

But would I ever make it again? Nope. I respect the technique of preserving meat with fat, but I'd just as soon do a braise and put the leftovers in the freezer.


Recipe Question: Do you miss them?

I much prefer the story of a dish to its nuts and bolts, and while I used to include more recipes, I would rather give you the gist of an idea and have you experiment with it than just follow my marching orders. That said, I want to know your preference. So shoot me a comment letting me know if you a) want me to keep including recipes b) like it this way or c) are a Russian spambot trying to redirect traffic to your scam.

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Unknown said...

You should write whatever you feel most comfortable putting out there. The way you presented this dish was informative but not uber-technical in a cold way... if someone reading has extra questions or would like an exact recipe, they can always e-mail you, right? I enjoy the recipes, but, hey—it's your blog! :)

Maggie said...

I have a rabbit in the freezer that I'm afraid of because I've overcooked 2 out of 3 of those I've tried. Gotta try this! I like the occasional recipe but agree that 'I do want I want' is the motto of every good blog.

Jasmine said...

I'll follow your recipe to the last detail and hopefully i can have it done perfectly. 'll try it and share with my family.

Et. Al. said...

meat is murder

Fairlington Blade said...

A particular scene from The Two Towers always stuck in my mind. Gollum catches and kills a couple of rabbits and Sam makes stewed coneys. It always sounded so good, so simple. Stew rabbits to create a broth with a few dried herbs. Toss in some carrots and onions. [Sam had to make due with salt.] It's a delicious dish.

Thanks for the reminder. I'll have to swing by one of the big Asian marts and pick one up while my wife is out of town. She's a bit weirded out by eating something cute.


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