There’s nothing quite like the intriguing flavor and sensational texture of a properly and carefully cooked rabbit. The legs require a moist cooking technique, such as braising or- as in this case- the confit method. Traditionally, items to be confit are first cured in a salt and sugar mixture before being slowly cooked in fat. Due to the delicate quality of rabbit meat, I choose not to cure the legs before cooking them slowly in fat. A big part of the attraction of this dish is the preservation of the delicate flavor of rabbit. The legs will be cooked with garlic, thyme, and bay leaves in a combination of duck and chicken fat. The confit method also helps to incorporate fat into the rabbit, which is a notoriously lean meat. After the legs are tender, they are cooled down to a safe temperature. When ready to serve, the legs will be breaded with an herb crust and heated in the oven until warm. The crust adds texture and aroma to the moist and tender legs. The loin of the rabbit must be treated with great care and respect as it is extraordinarily delicate and can dry up and become elastic within seconds. The application of the sous vide technique is invaluable in this case. Maintaining a constant and precise temperature will ensure that the loin is cooked as gently as possible and will not exceed the desired internal temperature. The loin is placed in the cryovac bag with garlic, thyme and rabbit stock is used as the cooking medium.
Typically, after a rabbit loin is cooked the appearance may seem drab almost to the point of being unappetizing. Putting a hard sear on the outside of the loin and caramelizing the meat may add to the presentation factor, but creates an unpleasant toughness that destroys the natural delicate nature of the rabbit loin. The sous vide loin is at its perfect doneness upon completion and ready for service. In order to bring interest to the appearance of the loin, I have taken a perfect complement to the rabbit, carrots. The carrots are juiced to extract the liquid essence of a carrot and establish a more versatile state of carrot flavor. The juice is strained carefully through a chinois and then heated with a touch of agar and gelatin. The hydrocolloid agar is used to help set the juice into a more solid state when cooled, whereas the gelatin will contribute flexibility to the chilled carrot “jelly roll”. Once set, the sheet of carrot is wrapped around the cooked rabbit loin- which is heated before rolling- to create a perfect bright orange coating of carrot essence!
The crispy confit leg and luxurious carrot-wrapped loin are placed on top of a smooth carrot puree, made by cooking carrots in carrot juice and rabbit stock, along with garlic and thyme. Baby carrots are beautifully glazed after being cooked in carrot juice and butter, showcasing their natural sugars. The bottom halves of the baby carrots are then removed and the top half- with the greens attached—is stood upright in the puree, as if melting downward into a delicious pureed form. Chantrelle mushrooms are visually stunning and delightfully delicate and unctuous in flavor. They are cleaned, rinsed and thoroughly dried in order to allow for sufficient caramelization. The mushrooms are quickly sautéed in a scorching hot cast iron pan to give a brief sear, just enough to cook them through and then removed and seasoned with sea salt, all in an effort to maximize their flavor and texture.
The sauce for this dish is composed of a dark rabbit stock, made by roasting the rabbit carcasses, adding them to sweated mirepoix, and covering with water. Thyme, garlic and bay leaves are added to provide additional aromatic assistance to the stock. The stock is strained after six hours of cooking and reduced to a glace. This glace is combined with an equal amount of rabbit stock, reduced slightly and mounted with butter to create the finished sauce. The rabbit glace carries on an incredible depth of flavor that will greatly accentuate the delectable protein.
This delicate and precise treatment of rabbit, maximizing its potential through the extraction of flavor and enhancement of texture will eliminate the possibility of rabbit ever again becoming an afterthought to other, more pronounced and esteemed meats.