“The tale is not true, but there’s a hint in it, a lesson for fine lads”
Russian literary genius was right — a million times right. Fairy tales are not entirely true, but they do carry seeds of wisdom for all of us to pick up on. And those of us who read very carefully, may even pick up a culinary tip or two.
Those of you familiar with a classic tale of Puss In Boots (written in 1690s, by the way) may recall how the whole head-spinning rise to power of a guy with humble upbringing began: his cat — the only possession he inherited from his recently departed father — went hunting. He trapped a young rabbit and carried it straight to the king’s castle. There he presented the rabbit as a gift to the king from his master, whom he called Marquis De Carabas. Thus began a series of events which ultimately led to the newly-baked Marquis’ marriage to the king’s daughter.
Now why do you think the king took interest in some unknown Marquis represented by an eccentric cat in oversized boots? I’ll tell you why. Rabbit! That’s what’s gotten king’s attention. Yes, rabbit is awesome. If you know what to do with it, you are certainly worthy of a king’s daughter’s (or son’s) hand and half a kingdom with it.
Now before you get all mushy inside thinking of the cute little things with wiggly pink noses and bushy tails, I have to warn you — this is a post about cooking one of them. Feel free to leave now, because we’ll start cooking in a minute.
Anyway, I think the U.S. is the only place on Earth where rabbits are mostly thought of as book/cartoon characters and nothing else. Meanwhile, Europe, and particularly France and Italy consume them just as frequently as we do chicken. We have been missing out, people. Rabbit meat is lean, flavorful without being “gamey” (here is a politically correct term I will never understand), and it cooks very quickly. Any recipe that deals with chicken can be easily spinned for rabbit. The recipe below is no exception. It’s a traditional French way to cook rabbit, which I highly recommend for three reasons: speed, absolutely no way to ruin it, and the lip smacking sauce that can be savored with fresh bread afterwards.
As for the Puss in Boots — I think he had a very good business (and culinary) sense, we certainly have a bunch to learn from him and the story.
Rabbit In Creamy Mustard Sauce
- 1 young rabbit, also called a “frier”, about 2-3 lbs
- 2-3 tbsp flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2-3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 large shallots, peeled, and sliced thin
- 2 garlic cloves, slices
- 3 generous tablespoons of Dijon mustard, brown mustard or spicy mustard. Absolutely NO ballpark yellow mustard allowed.
- 1 cup cream
- a few tablespoons of water
- fresh herbs for garnish
- Cut the rabbit into portion pieces. If you are unclear on that, there is an excellent article about cutting the rabbit here
- Season liberally with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour lightly over, turn the meat and sprinkle on the other side.
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.
- Brown the meat pieces on all sides until golden brown and no pink is showing on the surface. You may have to do so in batches, depending on the size of your skillet. Set the meat aside until needed.
- Add 1/2 wine into the skillet where rabbit was frying. Deglaze the skillet (scrape the bottom of the skillet with a spatula to render all the bits that got stuck to the bottom and have them lend the delicious flavor to the future sauce).
- Add shallots and garlic at this time and cook for 2-3 minutes, until onions are translucent and wine has reduced in half.
- Add mustard and cream. Stir well until smooth and lump free. Bring to a boil. Check the seasoning and correct if necessary.
- Add rabbit meat back to the sauce. If the meat isn’t fully covered with the sauce, add a few tablespoons of water.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until rabbit is tender. It will not be a fall-of-the-bone tender, but you should be able to cut through the meat with the fork.
- Serve hot, garnished with fresh finely chopped parsley. It goes best with a crusty white bread, and a juicy crunchy green salad with light dressing.