Feb 21 2011

Silly Rabbit

Published by at 3:25 pm under Cooking Classes,Dinner

Before I started culinary school and thought I knew what I was doing in the kitchen, I used to love posting my own recipes on my blog. For the past six months, I’ve been learning the correct way to do things — the “techniques” — and I’m happy to say I’m having more fun in my own kitchen than ever. The good news is that even if you don’t want to make classic dishes like a fish soufflé or a heavy Bordelaise sauce at home, you can apply the basics to dishes you do want to eat.

In just a few short weeks I will graduate from Tante Marie’s, and I can’t wait to get back to one of my favorite pastimes: recipe development. I started this blog because there’s nothing I’d rather write about more than adventures in the kitchen — and at the dining table.

That’s why I was especially excited to learn of our latest challenge in class. A couple of weeks ago, my instructor asked each of us to write an entire restaurant menu — complete with four to five appetizers, main courses and desserts — including whatever (cohesive, reasonable) dishes we could dream up. She later announced that we’d each be cooking two of the items from our menu.

I knew immediately which dish I wanted to make: Rabbit and Wild Mushroom Ragout with Grilled Polenta Cake and Broccolini.

The general reaction from my classmates when I announced I had chosen rabbit for this exercise was… dismay. After all, we could make anything we want, and it’s one of the only times we’ve been able to request luxuries like lobster, halibut and beef tenderloin.

But when I was home over Christmas, my dad happened to have a rabbit in his freezer ready to thaw. (He buys a lot of meat he can’t get in the Jackson, Mississippi supermarket online.) Thinking of the braising techniques I’d learned in class, I suggested slow-cooking the rabbit with polenta for dinner, and my father jumped at the idea. I did it without a recipe, inspired by other dishes we’d made at school, and I was positively triumphant when, after eating slowly and quietly, my dad pronounced the dish “restaurant quality.”

This was coming from a guy whose favorite restaurant is Gary Danko. I beamed.

Rabbit and Wild Mushroom Ragout with Grilled Polenta Cake and Broccolini

For the rabbit:
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 rabbit, cleaned and cut into 6 to 7 pieces
2 oz. pancetta, diced 1/4-inch thick
3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more as needed
1/2 cup onion, diced 1/4-inch thick (about 1/2 an onion)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced 1/4-inch thick
1 celery stalk, diced 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 bouquet garni, made of a few sprigs of parsley, bay leaf and sprigs of thyme
3 1/2 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, or any wild mushrooms
Salt and pepper

For the polenta cake:
1 cup dried polenta
Salt and pepper
Olive oil, if necessary

For the broccolini:
1 bunch broccolini
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the rabbit:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add enough hot water to cover the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and set aside to soak.
Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper and set aside.
Sauté pancetta in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot until crispy but still soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside, reserving the fat.
Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven and add the rabbit pieces in batches, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook each piece for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until the skin begins to turn golden brown. Remove the rabbit pieces from the pan and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté onion until soft, around 10 to 12 minutes. Add carrot and celery and cook another 10 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. Return rabbit pieces to the pot, along with wine, chicken stock, tomatoes and bouquet garni.
Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then cover the pot and let it simmer in the oven for 45 minutes.
While the rabbit is cooking, roughly chop the chanterelle mushrooms and cook them in a sauté pan on high heat to release their moisture. Then add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove rabbit braise from oven, and remove the rabbit pieces from the pot onto a large plate or bowl. Allow rabbit to rest until it is cool enough to handle, then shred the meat from the bones in bite-size pieces and set aside.
Strain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the soaking liquid to the pot.
Return the braising liquid to the stove and bring to a boil, reducing the mixture by half. Once it has thickened, remove the bouquet garni. Add the shredded rabbit meat and sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, and season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

For the polenta cake:
In a large saucepan, add the dried polenta and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the mixture is thick, and season with salt and pepper.
Spread the cooked polenta onto a quarter sheet pan or other pan that is at least 1 inch tall and long enough to fit the polenta. Let it cool completely.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan on the stove until very hot. Cut polenta into squares about 2 inches long and wide. Cook the polenta squares on the grill pan until they have nice grill marks, spraying the pan with oil if necessary to prevent sticking.

For the broccolini:
Wash and trim ends off of broccolini. Bring enough water to cover the broccolini (about 4 cups) to boil in a large saucepan. Add broccolini to the pot and let it boil for about 2 to 3 minutes, until it just starts to become tender.
Drain broccolini in a colander, then sauté in butter and oil in a sauté pan for another 5 minutes, until very tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve polenta cake with rabbit ragout on top, with broccolini on the side.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Silly Rabbit”

  1. Sharonon 22 Feb 2011 at 3:47 am

    I am sure your assistant would love this dish…..

  2. liv bites » Fantasy Restauranton 23 Feb 2011 at 5:18 am

    […] to come up with our own full restaurant menu for a recent assignment. Now you know all about the Rabbit and Wild Mushroom Ragout, but I thought it might be fun to post the rest of my fantasy restaurant items. Think of it like […]