Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rabbit: Pet or Provision?

I ate a rabbit.  A whole rabbit.  All by myself.  Granted, it took me four days to accomplish this feat, but I did it because it turns out, in my household, I am the only rabbit eater.  Well, the cats eat rabbit too but again, Kent tells me I have to question their judgment because they also eat spiders.  Even though I logged time researching how on earth to breakdown a rabbit, (you don't cut it apart anything like you would a chicken because it has a part called a saddle, which is sort of like rabbit tenderloin) and spent hours braising the thing and making a very French cream sauce, my companion, or rather my unwilling companion, would not eat it.  Not even a single bite. Now I know that I shouldn't be so hard on Kent. I've put the man through some trials--the whole hog's head soaking in our kitchen sink, the deep fried bull testicles, the sauteed chicken feet.  But I honestly thought rabbit was benign.  In fact, prepared rabbit looks and tastes quite a bit like chicken.

But, I guess it has to come down to a personal food philosophy to determine how you approach certain vittles outside the realm of the standard American diet.  Eating rabbit really riles some people up judging from the comments on a recent New York Times article.  But I'm not upset at my unwilling dining companion.  His position on the matter mirrors most Americans' view.  However, it's not just that eating rabbit goes beyond the normal dining conventions.  No, for Kent, it's personal.

In his defense, he cites that he could never eat rabbit because rabbits are cute and cuddly.  Then, he tells me sappy, sweet tales of HIS pet rabbit, Eight-Ball.  When Kent's high-school garage band practiced, Eight-Ball had a habit of sitting by the kick drum, and get this, would even thump his hind leg along with the beat.  Eight-Ball died a tragic death from a stomach tumor, apparently a side effect of eating ChemLawn grass.  Kent tells me this as I'm devouring a thick, juicy rabbit thigh which is surprisingly whiter than a chicken thigh, but still rich, and strikes me as an invigorating change from poultry.

I suppose Kent's story is a thinly-veiled guilt trip.  Our marriage is rife with such exchanges.  (Note exhibit A: You just spent how many hours rearranging your comic book collection?, I asked.)  And, now at the dinner table spread with braised rabbit in cream sauce, if I looked closely at Kent, I saw it, that withering glance that said I feel sad for you, look at how far you've stooped.

But the guilt-trip is lost on me.  I, too, had a pet rabbit when I was a kid. Unlike black, lop-eared Eight-Ball, my rabbit, B.C. was a white New Zealand, bred to be a MEAT rabbit.  B.C. was short for Buttercup, a name that was lifted straight out of one of my picture books featuring a rabbit, who gets lost one spring afternoon and after a climatic twist of plot is rescued from under a bush.  B.C. was a fortuitous name.  B.C. was rescued prevented from living a posh life getting fattened up for slaughter, at my great aunt Corrine's farm.  My great aunt Corrine raised rabbits not as cute, cuddly pets, but as yummy provisions.  So instead of living peacefully at Aunt Corrine's, B.C. was terrorized by my 5-year-old-self who wanted to love, cuddle, and squeeze this fur ball.  B.C. had other ideas.  This imprisonment was just too much for him, and he soon escaped his hutch.  He was seen around the farm, as a brief flash of white running from one hiding spot to another.  A few reconnaissance missions determined that B.C. had taken up residence under the garden shed.  My uncle, Corwin, choreographed elaborate strategies for capturing B.C., which required lots of running and a large minnow net.  While a couple of these missions worked, it wasn't long before B.C. was successful in another jail break.  Eventually, the rabbit went completely feral.  After he disappeared completely, we assumed he had probably been eaten by coyotes.  I don't think the coyotes could have given B.C. as dignified a death or appreciate his meat as much as I would have.  Which, is why, ultimately, I have no problem eating rabbit.

Braised Rabbit adapted from Amanda Hesser's The Cook and the Gardener.

2 T. butter
1 rabbit, cut into pieces
1 onion
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Prosecco (any white will work. That's what I happened to have on hand.)
3 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4-5 springs thyme
16 pitted prunes
3 T. heavy cream

Melt butter in saute pan.  Season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper and saute in butter until rabbit is browned on all sides.  Remove the rabbit, and sprinkle the flour in the pan.  Stir into a paste, cooking until the mixture is a golden brown color.  Add the wine, stirring to incorporate into the flour mixture.  Then add the rabbit pieces, bay leaves, thyme, and stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 1 hour.  Add the onion, and continue to cook for 30 to 40 more minutes or until the rabbit is tender.  Remove the lid from pan, add the prunes and cream and cook until heated through.


Diane said...

I think I might be with Kent on this one ;)

Although, really, that dish does look mighty tasty!

But images of my childhood pet bunnies haunt me.

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hansloas said...

I was never a fan of rabbit meat, but this draws me closer to the thought.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I did not know about BC! Kent has my sympathies, however. Visions of Eight-Ball cloud my memory, even though my German background offers bonds with hasenpfeffer dishes (never sampled, by the way). Karen