Sunday, March 24, 2013

Post-Rabbit Report

It's after dinner now, and my husband, Eric, and I dined on rabbit and barley stew, as planned.  I'm writing to report my observations.

After about three hours, I removed the cheesecloth-wrapped rabbit from the pot and removed the flesh from the bones, mixing the flesh back into the pot and squeezing the cheesecloth to recover the broth that had soaked into it.  This task took a bit over a half an hour.  After stirring the pot one final time to make sure the little bits of rabbit meat were well distributed through the barley and leek mixture, I called the stew done and we sat down to eat.

The stew came out very well.  It had plenty of flavor, but was not overpowering.  Part of this is undoubtedly due to the fact that the leeks and rabbit were fried in lots of butter, but the bay and sage also played a part.  It seemed closer to what a well-off Anglo-Saxon retainer might have eaten than the fowl-based varieties I had previously tried, though I'm not sure why I think so.

Although Eric understood that this was not meant to be a spicy dish, he was curious to experiment with capsaicin-based spices because it was our first time eating rabbit.  So he tried three capsaicin-based condiments on a few bites of the stew:  Tabasco sauce, cayenne pepper, and sweet paprika.  He told me not to even bother with the Tabasco, because his verdict was that it detracted from the food:  "It steps on the flavor too much; you might as well be eating chicken," he reported.

The cayenne and paprika did better, and I tried both of them.  Eric preferred the cayenne, which delivered a bit of kick while not concealing the blend of barley and rabbit flavors.  I preferred the paprika, which I thought complemented those flavors better even though it was less spicy.  

Due to the high cost of farm-raised rabbit in this area (since neither of us hunts), and the labor-intensive nature of its preparation in comparison to the chicken and duck versions, I don't think we'll be having this version of the stew very often.  I am glad I decided to try it once, though, and I'm happy that we have enough left to enjoy for most of the rest of this week.

EDIT:  (3/28/2013)  We've been eating the stew, and have periodically come upon thin little bones and bits of gristle while chewing.  I attempted to remove all of these while removing the flesh from the carcass, but apparently I missed quite a few of them.  If you try this recipe, you will want to be very careful in eating the stew, unless you use only rabbit joints in making it.

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