I was going about my business buying a dozen eggs at market on Saturday, when my friend came up behind me and said "Rachel, Stephen is selling whole rabbit". Rabbit. Hummm. Why did I hesitate? I suppose because rabbits have some sort of emotional attachment to us, the big soft ears, the cute little nose. Yet, how can I justify eating a cow 400 times it's size without batting an eye?
I started thinking. Rabbits are closer to native food than most all other domesticated meat animals. They are lean. The reproduce efficiently and with little effort. They have a light environmental footprint. Plus, they've got to taste good? Rabbits are a food from the frontier for goodness sake. Why am I uncomfortable?
I decided to walk over and check out the scene. There it was. Displayed over a bed of ice, not really looking much like the Easter bunny at this stage in the game. I thought it over. Gabbed with Steve. Faked to want a whole chicken, before switching gears and going for the rabbit. I was uncomfortable with my uncomfortableness around this animal. I needed to dive in! Surely my ancestors did.
I decided to begin the process with a brine, followed by an herb rubdown, followed by the heat of the grill, followed by continuous basting with garlic and herb butter. Then began the feast!
I am much more comfortable around the subject of rabbit now. After defusing some of my initial fears, I was able to enjoy an incredibly nourishing, mouthwatering, sustainable food. I never in my whole life thought that I would be taking sides with Mr. McGreggor and seeking out Peter rabbit for dinner, but that storybook farmer was onto something.
Grilled Whole Rabbit with Carrots and Potato Leek Puree:
*1 young 2-2.5 lb. whole rabbit, skinned and cleaned
*1/4 cup sea salt
*fresh or dried rosemary
*sea salt and pepper for rub
*2-3 Tbsp melted butter
*2 garlic cloves, minced
For Grilled Carrots:
*4 carrots, sliced diagonally
*sea salt and pepper
For Potato Leek Puree:
*8-10 small organic gold creamer potatoes
*2 large leeks
*1 Tbsp butter
*2 cloves garlic, minced
*1/2 cup plain yogurt, kefir, or cream
Fill a large bowl 3/4 with water. Add enough salt to make the water "briney" about a 1/4 cup. Place the rabbit in the bowl and allow to sit in fridge for a whole day or overnight.
Remove rabbit from brine and rinse. Generously rub the rabbit with the rosemary, sea salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot filled with salted water over med/high heat. Chop the tops off the leeks leaving only the white and light green of the stalk. Chop. Saute the leeks in the Tbsp butter in a medium skillet with the minced garlic. Salt and pepper. When completely tender, remove pan from heat and set aside. Drain the potatoes and slightly cool before blending with the leeks and yogurt in a food processor until smooth. Adjust seasonings. Return the puree to the potato pot to be rewarmed before serving.
In a small bowl, add the other 2 cloves of minced garlic and additional rosemary, sea salt and pepper to the melted butter. Baste the carrots with the butter and set aside on a small plate.
Fire up the grill, placing charcoal to one side. When you can hold your hand for 3-5 seconds over grill rack, coals are ready. Place the rabbit on the grill, not directly over the pile of coals. Cover grill with lid, turning rabbit occasionally, until fully cooked through but not overcooked. (Meat thermometer should read at least 160-170 in thickest area). Baste with the butter as rabbit cooks. Remove from heat and place on a baking sheet.
Grill the buttered carrots, about 1 minute per side.
Rewarm the potato leek puree, and serve with rabbit and grilled carrots. Sprinkle with parsley.
*Read your children an alternative storybook this evening, maybe one about a cute little cow or perhaps The Three Little Pigs.
More on the topic. A series of photos from the most recent issue of Meatpaper magazine:
This blog post was featured in the Mountain Xpress, our city's weekly publication. To view the full article click here.