Learn to cook like a pro – Feastly’s series of #kitchenhacks and home dining success is brought to you today by Chicago Cook David Yusefzadeh, a professional chef who has traveled the world and worked in top restaurants. David will host a Persian Feast May 8th in Wicker Park, and he has graciously provided this guest post and spring recipe for our community. Read on and feast on!
Choosing a healthy source of protein is a central part of many adults’ diets. Most Americans typically choose chicken over pork or beef but a very small amount of them have ever been as daring as to try rabbit. Rabbits are extremely lean animals with very healthy fat. They are not the easiest animals to break down but the reward is well worth the effort. Most rabbits purchased in a butcher shop will have all of their skin removed – if you can get your hands on one. A specialty butcher might be the best option for you, unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a part of the country where rabbits are commonly eaten. Once purchased, you’ll receive a cleaned whole rabbit and there will be a few organs detached but left inside (i.e. kidneys, liver and heart-which can be used for many other delicious things). Be sure to submerge the organs in olive oil first to allow them to purge all of the liquid (blood) during 2-3 days. In my opinion, the kidneys and hearts are best served grilled on skewers. The liver can be cooked with mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) garlic, brandy (red wine if you prefer) and pureed into a pate – the recipe is below.
Because the muscles of the rabbits are so complex, they require detailed attention, and therefore each part of the rabbit needs to be treated differently. The back legs are large and tough; most commonly they should be cured (lightly coated in equal parts salt and sugar plus other fresh herbs and spices of your choice – recipe also below) for 24 hours. Another option would include battering the legs in buttermilk and deep-frying – outstanding!
The remaining loin, tenderloin and trim can be used in various ways. The best way to utilize the remaining meat is to debone the saddle (torso) and fan it out into one flat piece. Season the loin with chopped herbs, lemon zest, salt and pepper and place the tenderloins inside of the loin. Roll the loin into a cylinder and tie with butcher’s twine. The loin can be seared, grilled or roasted in the oven. Bacon/pancetta can be added inside of the loin before it is rolled to add moisture and fat to the rabbit. If you decide to roast in the oven you should sear it first and then lay bacon on top of the loin so that the fat will drip onto the meat. In short, rabbits are as versatile as any other protein, and I cant attest that when treated with proper care their flavor will surpass any steak or piece of chicken.
Rabbit Confit with Baby Vegetables and Liver Toast
For the confit:
6 rabbit hind legs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch thyme
2 T. black peppercorns
In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients thoroughly being sure to completely coat the rabbit with the salt/sugar mixture. Once coated, lay the rabbit legs in a single layer with the herbs on top and underneath the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. After 24 hours, remove the rabbit and rinse off all sugar and salt. Lay the rabbit on paper towels and allow to air dry for 30 minutes. Place all of the rabbit in a shallow baking dish and completely submerge them in olive oil and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Place in a 225F oven for 4 hours. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the foil and allow to cool at room temperature for an hour.
Once the meat is cool, you can pick the meat from the bones or leave it whole (if you want to serve it as a main course).
For the vegetables:
10 each Thumbelina/baby carrots
10 each baby turnips
2 Cups Cipollini onions
2 sprigs of thyme
Peel and blanch both the carrots and turnips. Then cut each piece in half. Peel the Cipollini onions and sauté them in butter and thyme until golden. Once they are cooled you can cut them in half or into four depending on the size.
For the liver:
6 rabbit livers
¼ cup minced shallots
¼ cup minced celery
1 clove minced garlic
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup Brandy
Submerge the livers in olive oil as soon as they are removed from the rabbit and keep them there until you’re ready to work with them. In a medium pot, sauté the livers for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and herbs and continue to sauté for 2 more minutes. Add brandy and reduce completely. Remove the mixture from heat and cool to room temperature. Remove the bay leaf and puree the mixture in a blender until completely smooth. Pass through a fine mesh chinois and cool over ice.
Place the picked rabbit meat and baby vegetables into a small sheet tray. Season with salt and place in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and place in a serving bowl (as shown in the photo), the rabbit goes in the middle and baby vegetables scattered around. Spread the liver mixture on a small piece of toasted bread (garnish with fresh chives). Pour the following sauce over the vegetables.
For the sauce:
¼ cup white wine
½ cup chicken stock
2 egg yolks
Bring the wine and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Add the chicken stock and simmer for another minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolks. The sauce will thicken.
Follow Chef Yusefzadeh on Twitter and Instagram @chefyusef. Photos and text courtesy of David Yusefzadeh 2014.