Friday, February 27, 2009

how peter rabbit met his untimely end, or why adele will never be a children's book author

(With sincerest apologies to Beatrix Potter.)

One fine autumn morning, some weeks after Peter's narrow escape from Mr. MacGregor's garden, old Mrs. Rabbit once again left Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter at home alone.

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, boring and well-behaved rabbits that they were, fetched baskets and went down the lane to gather the wild raspberries that had just begun to ripen.

But Peter was an incorrigible rabbit. Once again, he ran to Mr. MacGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate.

The lettuces, French beans, and radishes were no longer in season, but Peter found tender leaves of spinach and sweet young carrots to feast upon. He even came across an apple tree in a previously-unexplored corner, and gorged himself on its small green apples.

And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some peppermint. After nibbling on a few cool, fresh leaves, and wanting to avoid another episode of hiding in the watering can, Peter decided it was time to return home.

Peter, in his attempt to reach the gate, took a shortcut across the patch from which Mr. MacGregor was harvesting potatoes. Mr. MacGregor let out a shout and ran after Peter, waving his garden fork and calling out "Stop, thief!"

Peter ran for the gate in leaps and bounds with Mr. MacGregor right on his heels. Mr. MacGregor made a grab for Peter's tail, but Peter ducked just in time, and dived underneath the gate.

Unfortunately, all the spinach and carrots and apples that Peter had gorged upon had made him far too fat to squeeze back underneath the gate. Peter was trapped, unable to move forwards, and unable to turn back.

Mr. MacGregor let out a low chuckle of delight, and seized Peter by his hind legs. Peter kicked and struggled to no avail as Mr. MacGregor placed him in a sturdy cage with a solid lock and left him outside the kitchen door for Mrs. MacGregor to handle.

Mrs. MacGregor was delighted. Although she was famous for her rabbit pie, she had recently received a volume on French cuisine from her fashionable cousin in London, and it contained a whole section on the preparation of game.

That afternoon, Mrs. MacGregor baked an apple tart. She roasted potatoes with fresh herbs. She cooked tender young spinach and baby carrots. And she braised Peter Rabbit to serve in a sauce of mustard cream.

The MacGregors dined very well that night.

Braised Rabbit in Mustard Cream Sauce

For this recipe, you'll need a plump whole rabbit weighing about three pounds, with liver intact. (From a butcher, please. No traumatizing your ex a la Fatal Attraction, and no Craigslist. Even if the bunny is going to find a good home in your stomach. You are, however, free to name it if your sense of humor resembles mine.) If you're handy with a cleaver, you can cut it into small pieces yourself, but it's easier to ask the butcher to cut it into small pieces for you.

(This technically can serve one, but you'll have a ton of leftovers to freeze. Probably better to round up a few friends to make Peter Rabbit jokes with you.)

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Rinse your rabbit pieces (but not the liver, keep that in the fridge for now) and pat dry.

Put a heavy ovenproof pot with lid on the stove. Heat a little olive oil, and brown the rabbit pieces in batches. Transfer the pieces to a bowl and set aside.

Add one finely chopped large onion, two minced cloves of garlic, and several sprigs of fresh thyme to the pot. Cook until the onion is soft, then pour in two cups of cheap white wine. Stir, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom, and simmer until you no longer smell alcohol when you stick your head over the pot.

Put the rabbit pieces back in the pot, and cover with the lid. Move the pot to the oven, and braise for an hour and a half, or until the meat can be easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, take the liver and cut it into small cubes. Saute in a pan over low heat until the liver is mostly cooked, but still pink inside.

Transfer to a food processor (mortar and pestle also works) and blend the liver to a paste. Stir in a third of a cup of crème fraîche to produce a thick, creamy, pinkish goo.

Remove the rabbit pieces from the pot. Bring the liquid in the pot to a boil, and reduce until you have roughly a cup remaining.

Turn off the heat, and stir in the liver mixture. Add a quarter-cup of creamy Dijon mustard, and two or three tablespoons of whole-grain Dijon mustard. Depending on your brand of mustard, you may want to add a little salt.

Stir until the mustard has been fully incorporated, then bring the mixture back to a simmer and gently transfer the rabbit pieces back into the pot, spooning the sauce over to cover. Put the lid back on and cook for another five to ten minutes. Turn off the heat. Serve.

Braised bunny goes well with roasted carrots and potatoes on the side, and apple tart to follow.

(I forgot to take photos until dinner was over, so you'll have to make do with the photo I took of next day's lunch.)


Virgin In The Volcano said...

This is the saddest version of Peter Rabbit I've ever read. And one of the more delightful.

adele said...

Virgin - Sad for Peter, perhaps. But delightful for the MacGregors.

Philosofya said...

You killed Peter.

Googie Baba said...

Is that really how it ends? Horrifying. The dish looks terrific though.

adele said...

Philosofya - He died for a good cause.

Googie - This my unauthorized sequel. I believe Peter grows up and gets into even more mischief in Potter's other books.

Lisa said...

I say YES you should be a children's book author. Why sugar coat everything?? LOVE your story. When I was a little girl, my neighbor friend's parents had rabbits. My friend and I named all of them. One day after school, my friend and I were having a snack at her house. I said "this is good chicken!" and she replies, "no, it's not chicken. It's Coppertone, the little tan rabbit." UGH! I haven't had rabbit since, but now that I read your delightful recipe, I may reconsider.

adele said...

Lisa - That's quite the story. I hope you weren't too traumatized!

I would be interested to see an honest children's book about the reality of where meat comes from. But I don't think I'm the one to write it. :P

JacquelineC said...

Forgot to tell you how delicious (in so many ways) this post is. Do you know I've never made rabbit? I love it at Dali, but I think that may be the only place I've had it!

James said...

It'd probably be more convenient to get the thing from a butcher, anyhow...I doubt pet stores take kindly to buying animals by weight.

adele said...

Jacqueline - I'm surprised at the favorable response this entry has received. I'm still waiting for a furious comment from someone with fond childhood memories of Peter Rabbit.

Perhaps you need to kill two birds with one stone: fresh pasta with rabbit ragu?

James - Good point. Very good point.

Julia said...

Great story! tee hee. I'm the kinda gal that sees a rabbit scurrying in the woods and think, "delicious!"

So nice to meet you the other night.

adele said...

Julia - A gal after my own heart. :)

Sunday Cook said...

Hee - I'm gonna like reading this blog. :-)

adele said...

Sunday Cook - Perhaps one of the best things about blogging is discovering that other people do in fact appreciate my twisted sense of humor. :)