Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Braised Rabbit with Wild Chestnuts [Zack]

While out on a run in a park in Middleheim, I kept seeing people scramble into the woods with plastic shopping bags or hippie satchels.  After my 4th lap, I decided to jump into the woods and figure out what everyone was harvesting.  It turns out chestnuts were falling all over the place, so as a cool-down, I picked up as many as my shirt could carry.

Because I was pretending to be a hardcore mountain man, I figured rabbit would be a great thing to accompany the roasted chestnuts.  But instead of trapping the bunnies and killing them myself, I got them already prepared from the grocery store.

Below seems like an ambitious recipe (especially since I can't remember ever having rabbit before and have therefore obviously never cooked it).  Honestly, it's way easier than you think - if you've ever braised anything - beef, chicken, lamb, etc. you will know how to braise the rabbit.  And the rabbit cooks and tastes similar to chicken thighs, with loads of flavor.

This is a great winter dish and it makes you feel like a woodsman (or woodswoman).


Pre-heat your oven to 250 F / 125 C.  Heat up a large oven-proof pot with a lid to medium heat and add 2 T oil and 2 T butter once the pan is hot.  Put in your diced pancetta and cook for 1 minute.  Brown the rabbit pieces in the oil, being careful not to over-crowd your pan.  If you add too much meat at once, you may as well just skip the step because you will not get the proper maillard reaction.  Once the first batch is caramelized nicely, remove to a plate and repeat until you are finished with your rabbit.

In the same fat (you can pour out a bit if you think it’s too much), add the potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and thyme.  Once you feel like they have had some love from the pan, de-glaze with your wine and port.  Add in the chicken stock, dijon mustard, 1 T of vinegar, and a bit more water to cover the top of the contents.  The below chunks in the picture are frozen bits of my chicken stock.

In a side bowl, thoroughly mix  3 T of port with 3 T of flour.  It will look like blueberry yogurt. 

The flour will thicken up your sauce, and adding it to port before trying to stir it in ensures that you don’t have any flour lumps (re lumps: think under mixed Swiss-Miss hot chocolate, but with flour.  Not that fun).  Stir in the thickener and let the contents come to a simmer.  Put the lid on and place in your oven.  Let this go for about 1.5 hours and go shovel some snow.

Or, if you somehow found free unroasted chestnuts on the ground, you have to do a bit more work.  Start with the flat side of the chestnut and make an "X" in the middle of it about 1/4 an inch deep.

The chestnuts can go in the same oven as the braise for about 20 minutes.  When they come out and look toasty, cover them with a kitchen towel for 10 minutes so they soften up a bit.  They are kind of a pain in the butt to peal, but if you let them get cold, it gets much tougher.  Take off the outer shell and the 2nd skin.  If they crumble like a lot of ours did, you can add the crumbs anyways as it adds to the "rustic nature" of this meal.

Check on the rabbit by pricking the leg with a knife.  If it slides right in, it’s finished.

The recipe can go in 2 ways now – you can have rabbit stew if you leave the sauce un-reduced, or you can choose to take everything out of the pot and cook the sauce down until it has a thicker consistency.

Once your sauce coats the back of a spoon and is to your liking (it took me 15 minutes on med-low), add everything back into the pot, plus your roasted chestnuts and serve!


1 1/2 rabbits, quartered
3 slices of diced pancetta
4-5 quartered red potatoes
4 small quartered red onions
2 chopped carrots
10 sliced oyster mushrooms
5 sliced baby bella mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, sliced
a few sprigs of thyme
roasted chestnuts (or walnuts are fine)

1 1/2 glasses of red wine
2 glasses of port
1 cup chicken stock
3 T flour
1 T dijon
1 T red wine vinegar

Jam to this - Beatles:  She’s so heavy

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