Monday, September 19, 2011

My Not Entirely Successful Rabbit-Stew Adventure

I made a version of this recipe. Unfortunately, I am not as talented as the chefs who came up with it, so my stew was more of a learning experience. What I learned was this.

1. Don't undercook your rabbit. Mr. CSB tells me constantly that the whole point of a crockpot is that you can leave your stew on low heat for hours and hours, until the meat is falling-apart tender. But I have been slow to heed. My rabbit chunks were not very tender, because I did not cook them for long enough.

It might also be that the meat was butchered most inexpertly -- by which I mean that I had a three-pound headless rabbit and no idea what to do with it, so I hacked off all the edible-looking bits, some of which might have made my New England trapper ancestors laugh at the suggestion they should be eaten.

2. Crush your juniper berries, if you want to taste them at all. I only realized this when I cracked one between my teeth by accident and realized, "Ho, there's a new flavor."

3. A little rosemary goes a long way. So please, take it easy. I really should have known better, because I once stripped rosemary stalks for two hours straight when I worked at a French bakery, and for days my hands smelled of the stuff. Much as my apartment still smells right now.

4. Persevere, because the recipe is worth it. I had a hell of a time getting my hands on a rabbit -- I called four butchers before I found a place, Graham Avenue Meats and Deli in Williamsburg, but then the L train wasn't running, so I had to take the J/M/Z and walk north. What I didn't realize was that the J/M/Z was going to drop me in a part of town that's slightly dodgy. Not extremely so, but my flouncy-skirt-wearing hipster self was enough out of place that three cabs stopped to ask if I wanted to be picked up, including one driver who exclaimed, "Madam, your chariot has arrived!" That L train thing really put a kink in my travel plans -- on the way home, I took the G train. For non-New Yorkers: That means I was desperate.

But it's a lovely rustic dish -- the recipe linked above calls it "fragrant Alpine comfort food" -- and it made enough stew that I'll be eating it all week. Plus, it gave me something interesting to talk about with the guy at my liquor store. "I used to eat a lot of game in Guyana -- rabbit, deer, lots of things," he said. "But I would shoot it myself." He even gave me a helpful trick for not cracking your teeth on the bullet when you eat: shoot the animal in the head.

5. Use more garlic. This is Lesson #5 of every culinary experience, because there is no such thing as too much garlic.

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