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Lisa has been away for the past few days, working the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco. Before she left I made her an experimental Valentine's Day treat: yeast-raised beignets. This was my first time making fried dough and it turned out really well -- I only burned myself once.

In Lisa's absence I decided to try another culinary experiment that I knew she wouldn't be as interested in: hasenpfeffer, from a Mark Bittman recipe.

Now, my standard take on rabbit is that it's essentially lean chicken with fur, and hence generally not worth the reproachful looks of the Friends of Thumper who find out you've been eating it. But all my prior experience had been with generic stews, and I thought it might be different in a dish specifically designed for it. I was also intrigued by the fact that the recipe uses unsweetened chocolate as an ingredient -- owing to a nut allergy, I can't eat chocolate in restaurants (even with supposedly nut-free dishes, there's too much risk of cross-contamination), so my only chance to try a savory chocolate dish is to make it myself.

So I bought a headless frozen bunny at Metropolitan Market, thawed it, marveled at the cuteness of its giblets, hacked it into serving pieces, marinated it overnight, and cooked it...

...and my opinion of rabbit itself remains unchanged. It looks and tastes like chicken -- chicken that has spent its life doing Olympic sprints, and whose muscle meat needs to be tweezed off the bone. Not really worth it.

The sauce, though, is another story. Very good, and different from anything I've tasted before. Paired with actual chicken, it ought to make an excellent dish. So Thumper didn't die in vain:

1. Soak 4-6 chicken thighs overnight in a marinade of 2 cups red wine (I used Shiraz), 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot, several sprigs of fresh parsley, and some salt and pepper.

2. Remove thighs from marinade and pat dry. Strain marinade and reserve.

3. Cut 4 slices of thick bacon into cubes and cook in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until most of the fat is rendered and the bacon starts to crisp. Reserve bacon bits.

4. Cook 2 cups chopped onion, 1 cup diced carrot, 1 cup chopped celery, and 1/2 lb. of chopped Crimini mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat until the vegetables are soft. Remove vegetables with a slotted spoon and reserve.

5. Raise heat to medium. Dredge chicken thighs in flour and brown on both sides in the bacon fat (you may need to add a little olive oil at this point if the fat has been diluted by the vegetable juices). Season with salt and pepper while browning.

6. Return the bacon bits and vegetables to the Dutch oven and give everything a light stir. Add the reserved marinade and bring to a boil. Add 1 oz. of chopped, unsweetened chocolate, more salt, and lots of pepper. Stir.

7. Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour, until the chicken is tender and the sauce has begun to thicken. Serve over whole wheat egg noodles.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 19th, 2007 06:04 pm (UTC)
i love rabbit dishes. i suppose i consider the Friends of Thumper thing as relish; i started cooking them because my father loves to shoot them. have you had one that wasn't raised in a hutch? (hanging has to be part of the process or it's really too tough to consume. it seems like the sort of days-long process you would enjoy.) i miss it sometimes. i've toyed with the idea of hunting them in Woodland Park, but i figure i'd have to get one of those industrial slingshots and then hide from these nutters.
Feb. 19th, 2007 10:15 pm (UTC)
have you had one that wasn't raised in a hutch?

No, and I was wondering whether that might make a difference. Bittman actually recommends using a hare if you can get one -- I gather that is a larger and probably gamier species than the pet store escapees frolicking in Woodland Park.
Feb. 19th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Matt! Sounds well worth trying. I'll probably give it a shot with fresh, local chicken first, before looking around for my neighbourhood bunny purveyor.
Feb. 19th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
I have Mel Blanc and Garry Marshall to blame for a life-long (although unsatisfied) fascination with hasenpfeffer. TV, how thou vexest me!
Feb. 20th, 2007 03:14 pm (UTC)
I've had good rabbit and bad, but I think it's the luck of the draw.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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