I love rabbit, If you’ve never had it, you could compare it’s flavor to turkey: it’s sweet, tender, and mild. A little tradition that my boss instilled in me is serving rabbit with carrots. Far from being morbid, the pairing is a natural one. Now if you’ve read children’s stories like Beatrix Potter, you know that bunnies like to eat carrots. They go together so well since they’re both sweet. I will say though, every time we serve rabbit with carrots, it still makes me chuckle a little.
It’s a beautiful thing though, to serve an animal with what it eats. In French you might describe it as serving an animal in it’s “terrroir” which translates roughly to time and place. Rabbit was one of the first foods I learned to serve like this, and it changed my thinking a little. Not only are you preparing a dish, you are creating a thoughtful one; it’s a great example of how food can transcend the pleasure of eating it.
Wild carrot, also known as queen anne’s lace, is an interesting specimen. As a bit of a disclaimer I don’t really suggest looking for it to play with in the kitchen unless it’s summer and the seed pods are visible. Wild carrot is related to the most deadly plant in North America: water hemlock. The leaves look very similar, and the seed pods do as well, but the seeds of wild carrot are much tighter together, in a large bunch.
That being said, the seed pods of wild carrot are pretty easy to identify once you get to know their shape, and they are plentiful. Their flavor isn’t as carrot-like as you might expect, it’s something more along the lines of celery seed crossed with a carrot, they have a mild flavor. Since they can be picked en masse during their season, I like to take them and make broths and such, they are a lot of fun combined with domestic carrots for a “double carrot” theme.
In the end this entree ends up eating like a cross between a soup and a plate of meat and vegetables, similar to the French preparation for fish known as “a la nage” in which fish are served in a small amount of broth. The chanterelles were in season when I made this, and their sweet perfume is a great compliment to the sweetness of the broth. It’s a playful, light dish, great for summer nights when you don’t want to eat to much heavy food.
Rabbit Poached in Wild Carrot Broth with Chanterelles
- 4 rabbit hind legs
- 2 cups carrots preferably heirloom, peeled and cut into similar shapes, peelings reserved
- 4 ounces fresh chanterelles wiped if very clean or quickly rinsed and laid out to dry on towels if dirty
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 recipe wild carrot broth follows
- Virgin sunflower or extra virgin olive oil for garnishing (optional)
- Carrot leaves for garnishing (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place the rabbit legs in a wide pan with a lid add the wild carrot broth. Season the broth to taste lightly with salt, then bring the mixture to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven for 2-2.5 hours, or until very tender and the meat moves freely from the bone.
- Blanch the carrots in lightly boiling salted water until just cooked through, then refresh in an ice bath and reserve.
Finishing and plating
- When it's time to serve, gently remove the rabbit legs from the poaching liquid and keep warm for moment. Heat the carrots and chanterelles in the broth until the chanterelles are cooked through. Check the seasoning of the broth for salt. Just before serving, add the vinegar to taste.
- Divide the carrots between four large preheated bowls, place a rabbit leg on top of each, then pour in 1/2 cup of broth, garnish with the chanterelles, carrot leaves, a drizzle of the sunflower oil and serve immediately.
Wild Carrot Broth
- Trim and peelings from 1 lb carrots preferably heirloom
- 2 qts water
- 1 sweet onion halved
- 1 rib of celery
- 1 cup wild carrot seed heads lightly packed
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp white sugar
- Place the water, wild carrot seed heads, celery, sugar, carrot peelings and onion in a stock pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for an hour, or until fragrant.
- Strain the broth and reserve, you should be left with about 6 cups of broth.