It's a success!
It is rare that I am as proud of my kitchen achievements as I am right now. Yesterday, saw one my best success with rabbit ever. This one started at my local newspaper and magazine shop. This is where I quickly browsed through a new local gastronomy magazine named ‘Flaveurs’. At first sight, this magazine looked fairly pompous, often showcasing expensive ingredients and let’s admit it: the name is awful. Nonetheless, in part because I learned as a kid not to judge things and people by their appearances, I decided to browse the recipes to see if there was something that would provoke my imagination. One of these recipes proposed the use of one of our best and most unusual local beers, Trois Pistoles, to braise rabbit. I forgot most of the original recipe but remembered that it requested a small amount of beer (100 ml I think), one head of star anis and about 2 cups of demi-glace. For those who read French: this could be the original recipe (link) but I can’t confirm for now.
Brewed by one of the best know micro-breweries of Canada, Unibroue, Trois-Pistoles, as I said, is an incredibly good beer but is also a quite atypical one. It is a very dark beer made like a strong Belgian Abbey beer with aromas reminiscent of exotic spices, dark chocolate and brown sugar. It is surprisingly soft on the palate in part due to its slight sweetness. It is not your typical dark beer so I would not advise using a Guinness or a similar beer in this recipe: a nice brown Belgian Abbey beer should do the trick better.
I started my recipe using half a bottle of beer and a few spices which included prominently star anis and clove. After reducing this mixture for a few minutes, I tasted it and was quite disappointed by the taste of it: I wanted a much stronger taste of spices infused in the beer. I then looked at the comparatively large amount of demi-glace in my other pot and realised that I would need much more beer and spices to alter its taste sufficiently for my guests to notice them in the final product. There was definitely a need to move away from the original recipe that I had partly forgotten anyway. I reluctantly poured in my pot the rest of the beer bottle that I planed to drink while cooking and added about ¼ of a cup of star anis along with a few other spices. In the meantime, I browned the rabbit pieces in a small Dutch oven.
Happy with my work, I opened another Trois-Pistoles to celebrate another happy late afternoon in my kitchen. And then, I got distracted and forgot about my rabbit for a few minutes… when I came back, there was a bit of smoke coming out of the overheated Dutch oven… nothing to cause panic yet but there was a need to act in order to avoid a catastrophe. I then decided to deglaze the pot with some of my newly opened beer to reduce the heat and avoid loosing the nice fond which had been created on the base of the Dutch oven. There was now over 1 ½ bottle of beer in my recipe. The rest went as planed and the result more than surpassed my expectations. Here’s the recipe!
(Note that the quantities are approximate since I didn’t measure anything… and don’t be fooled by the ugly picture: this dish was awesome!)
Braised rabbit in spices and Trois-Pistoles beer sauce
- 1 Rabbit cut in 6 or 8 pieces
- 2 bottles of Trois-Pistoles (341 ml each)
- About two cups of demi-glace (I used the commercial powdered version to reduce the costs… I’m sure this recipe would get even better if you use a better product or you own heavily reduced brown veal stock)
- 2 thinly sliced shallots
- ¼ cup of star anis (whole)
- ½ tea spoon of clove (whole)
- ¼ tea spoon of Sichuan pepper (whole)
- A tiny bit of cinnamon stick (cinnamon, as well as all the other spices in this recipe can be overwhelming so stick to these amounts or use your own judgement to adapt this recipe to your own tastes)
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 or 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a small sauce pan, slowly reduce, on a very low flame, the content of one bottle of beer in which you add all the spices but the salt and pepper along with the thyme and bay leaf. Then strain in the demi-glace sauce and season to taste. In the meantime, season and brown the rabbit in a Dutch oven with a little bit of oil or butter and reserve. Add the shallot until they are very lightly browned. At this point, add the content of the second beer bottle to deglaze (minus a few sips which should be enjoyed by the cook). Let reduce the beer by half. Put the rabbit back in your Dutch oven along with the flavoured demi-glace. Place in the oven for about an hour at 350° Fahrenheit. Before serving, strain the sauce in a small sauce pan and reduce to desired consistency (by half in my case).
A note on the picture: the rabbit was served with a lemon and cabbage risotto, roasted tomatoes and some oven roasted root vegetables. The roots and tomatoes were quite good but the risotto had a sourness that I didn’t like: too much lemon! I also added chestnuts in my original recipe but I came to the conclusion that they didn’t add much to the dish. There must be a way to make a decent presentation with this recipe… I’m open to any suggestion regarding this as I will certainly make this recipe again.
Now, the next things to try with this recipe:
- Marinate rabbit in beer and spices for a few hours before hand.
- Use only the legs of the rabbit keeping the loins for other uses and the bones to make the stock from which the sauce will be produced. (e.g. for 4 people: use 2 rabbits which will give two carcasses for broth, four loins for another meal and some extra meat from the front legs which could be used in again another recipe)
- Try a similar version with chicken legs.