Savory, Sustainable Rabbit (or Chicken) Perfect Spring Dish
Quady employee Cheryl Russell based this recipe on chef Rick Scott's original. In 1990 Scott, who was then Executive Chef at the San Francisco Park Hyatt Hotel, created the original as his entry in Quady's savory dish with Essensia pairing competition.
This rabbit dish pairs perfectly with Essensia which is made from Orange Muscat grapes. Essensia's dazzling apricot and orange flavors, and its orange blossom scent are carried through the caramel and apricots in the recipe. The richness of rabbit, smokiness of bacon and tang of Roquefort cheese are a perfect foil for Essensia.
Rabbit is enjoying a resurgence in popularity as people seek sustainable proteins. They can be fed easily, breed quickly and take far fewer resources when compared to other animals. (See Kim Severson, New York Times, Don't Tell the Kids.) Another recent post declares rabbit to be the next backyard chicken. See Backyard Bunnies are the New Urban Chickens.
Tastes like Chicken
Not really, but if you're unfamiliar with rabbit, unable to find it, or simply prefer to use chicken we've got you covered. Cheryl says, "Well I have to tell you, rabbit is hard to find in supermarkets. Yes, I know. A fuzzy, soft, adorable bunny? Luckily, I couldn’t find it." For those who don't want to use rabbit or cannot find it, this recipe has been adapted to chicken.
Cheryl chose Mary’s Free Range Chicken instead of rabbit. Mary's Free Range Chickens mature with plenty of open space on a ranch in the sunny San Joaquin Valley near Fresno, California. These chickens are raised in a humane manner in a stress-free environment that is four times the size of the average commercial ranch. Because of cleaner living quarters and open space the chicken is healthier and produces a better taste. Mary's Chickens are free of antiobiotics and raised without hormones.
Rabbit must be braised in three batches since each part of the rabbit parts cook at different rates. Cheryl likes the ease of using chicken. "Since I made this recipe with chicken it was much easier than with rabbit. The rabbit had to be cooked 3 different ways because different parts of the rabbit had to be cooked longer so it would be tender and shorter time for pink meat."Filo Bundles
This recipe incorporates Roquefort blue cheese in filo dough pouches as an accompaniment to the dish. Roquefort is often paired with fruits. Filo dough is paper-thin and can be a bit tricky, but it's also forgiving. Cheryl made these pouches in triangle, cigar, pouch, and bag shapes. "I think if I had it to do again I would use wonton wrappers or even make pasta dough for blue cheese raviolis. The whole idea behind the blue cheese is that it is salty and rich and the filo is the vessel to get it to the dish in an attractive way." Likely the texture of the filo adds an important element to the braised dish.
4 sheets of packaged filo dough
4 oz Roquefort blue cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
Follow instructions on the filo package for thawing. Heat or microwave the butter until melted. Separate 4 sheets of filo dough. Layer them, brushing butter between each sheet. Cut the stacked sheets into eight 5” squares. Mound approximately 1 Tbs of blue cheese into the center of each square and gather the edges pulling up to form pouches. Square and cigar shaped pouches are much easier. Butter the edges to help seal and brush butter over the entire pouch. Place on a non-stick baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. [for how long?] Place in a 350 degree over for 45 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with the main dish.
This may sound difficult but if you know how to sauté chicken, then it’s a snap.
Marinating Ingredients (for 1 Free Range Whole Chicken about 3-4 pounds cut into pieces or one whole rabbit, also cut into pieces)
1 Tbs each fresh minced herbs: Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary, Marjoram
1 Tbs Juniper Berry minced
½ white onion diced
1 large peeled carrot, diced
1 ½ cups of water
1 ½ cups dry white wine
Simmer the herbs, vegetables and liquid ingredients until the vegetables are soft, then cool.
Place the chicken in the cooled liquid and marinate overnight.
Remove the chicken and drain the liquid, keeping the vegetables.
4 pieces of smoked bacon sliced into ½” pieces
4 Tbs minced shallot
3 Tbs unsalted butter
2 Tbs reserved bacon drippings
½ cup Cognac or Brandy
10 oz can of low salt chicken broth
1 tsp each of the 4 fresh herbs listed above, minced
2 Tbs of sugar
1/3 cup Essensia
Heat in small sauce pan until reduced thick and syrupy about 15 minutes.
½ cup dried minced apricot
Cover the apricots with Essensia for 10 minutes to rehydrate.
1/4 cup minced arugula
- Fry the bacon in a large stainless steel skillet until crispy reserving the drippings. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. Remove fat, reserving 2 Tbs, add the 3 Tbs of unsalted butter. Scrape the pan to remove any stuck particles. This "fond" or caramelized bits create depth of flavor.
- Pat the chicken dry and add to the skillet to brown on medium heat.
- Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Scrape the pan to loosen any additional fond. Add the fresh herbs, shallot and reserved vegetables back to the skillet and sauté until translucent. You may have to add more bacon drippings a Tbs at a time.
- Pull the pan from the flame or burner, add the brandy. Light the brandy carefully away from the flame to burn off the alcohol. When the flame has subsided place the pan back on medium heat, add the chicken broth and Essensia Caramel stirring with a whisk to incorporate.
- Return the chicken to the skillet, cover and simmer until done, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the chicken to a warm platter. Add the rehydrated apricot and liquid to the skillet and heat until bubbly and reduced to a nice syrupy consistency. Pour the liquid on top of the chicken.
- Top with arugula and bacon bits. Place the blue cheese filo packets around the chicken.
Cheryl really likes this recipe. "The taste combination paired with Essensia and the dish was not too sweet." However, she wasn't a fan of the Roquefort parcels, feeling they overwhelmed the dish. "The pouches tasted better with the wine alone than with the chicken and pouch combination."
She blanched whole Swiss Chard leaves from Willey Farms in Madera, CA. in water and balsamic vinegar and placed them on the bottom of the platter before placing the chicken on the platter. "This gave the dish a nice balance, soaked up the juices and was delicious. Make sure to have a bite of chicken then a small taste of Essensia, the combination works! It’s fun to make a dish where the taste combinations with the wine you are serving synergize with the dish."
We're looking forward to hearing how Cheryl likes the dish with rabbit which she found through a wholesaler in Fresno. Look for rabbit in specialty butchers or order from supermarket meat departments.