25 October, 2011

Rabbit and Bacon Pie

Rabbit and Bacon Pie with Garlic Kale

It had been a long time since I'd had rabbit, and had never actually cooked with it myself. Perhaps the last time I had it was as far back as when I lived in Germany in the '90s and my ex-mother-in-law prepared an exquisite rabbit dish every year for Easter. When I'd tell people about this incredible culinary experience, my American friends often screeched "OH MY WORD, you ATE the Easter Bunny!!??" Why, yes. Yes, we did.

I'd recently acquired the book "Great British Food" at Seattle's brand-new Book Larder cookbook store and had noticed an incredible pie recipe in it that I desperately wanted to try: Rabbit and Bacon Pie. I wasn't even sure if I could find a rabbit. It's found in a lot of European cuisines, but you don't see it a whole lot around here. So I put out an online inquiry and got tips on where I might find a whole rabbit. As I was on my way to check out various recommended gourmet butchers, I decided just for fun, I'd check out my local butcher who is a mile from my home "Fischer Meats" in Issaquah. Lo and behold, they happened to have a 3.2-lb whole rabbit with my name on it. It was gutted and cleaned, but strangely still had some of its innards attached (ie. kidneys, heart) which I ended up using in the recipe for more flavor.

I adapted this recipe a bit, and instead of one big pie, I baked individual 4-inch pies (I had two ramekins and four miniature springform pans, so I used two different kinds). I served the pie with a simple garlic kale dish on the side.

Side note: I had a couple of large spoonfuls of the filling left over and it made a fantastic sauce over pasta. Also, I think a great addition to this recipe would be to use a handful of chopped wild mushrooms in the filling, perhaps chanterelles.

Makes six 4-inch pies.

(For another savory pie recipe, check out Pamela's "Shepherd's Pie" blog at: My Man's Belly.)

Braised Rabbit Ingredients.
1 rabbit, skinned, gutted and cleaned
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery root, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh sage
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/4 cup cider
salt and pepper

2 TB butter
5 strips thick-cut streaky bacon, cut into small matchsticks
1 leek (whites with trimmed greens), finely sliced
2 TB flour
2 TB fresh parsley, chopped

Pastry Ingredients.
4 sheets (approx. 2 lb.) puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Season the rabbit inside and out with salt and place in a dutch oven. Add onion, carrot, celery root, garlic, herbs, stock, and cider. Season the whole thing with pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and remove only the rabbit from the dish to a cutting board. Cut or pull off all the meat, discarding the bones. Cut the meat into small chunks and return them to the dutch oven with the vegetables.

In a frying pan, melt butter and fry the bacon for five minutes until lightly browned. Add the leeks and let them sweat for 5 minutes until soft. Sprinkle in the flour (or, if you are gluten-free, your own thickening agent, such as arrowroot), stir well, and cook together for two minutes.

Add the bacon and leeks to the dutch oven and bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Add the chopped parsley, stir, and remove from heat. Check the seasoning and allow to cool somewhat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of 4-inch ramekins or springform pans. Roll out a sheet of the pastry on a well-floured surface to about the thickness of a tea towel (3 mm or .1"). Cut big enough squares to fill each baking dish or pan, with a little bit of dough hanging over the side; trim corners.

Fill the pies with the rabbit-bacon filling. Cut another piece of pastry for the lid of each pie, letting a little hang over the edge; trim corners. With floured hands, pinch the edges of the lids to the edges of the pastry lining (I pinched together and rolled in toward the center of the pie) to make sure they are well-sealed together. Cut a couple of small slits into, or stick your fork through, the top of each pie a couple of times to allow steam to escape.

Brush the lid of each pie with the beaten egg. Bake for 35 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Serve hot.

Adapted from Great British Food

Whole rabbit being prepared for cooking (l), pies being assembled (r)

The finished pies served with garlic kale