From The Cooking of Southwest France, published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Copyright 2005 by Paula Wolfert
This unusual and heavenly dish of shredded rabbit and plump prunes set in aspic is Lucien Vanel’s version of an old French recipe. In the Southwest, the word compote can be applied to any sort of stewed shredded meat or poultry (rilletes).
One of the problems with rabbit is that it often comes out tasteless and dry. In this dish, however, the flesh is tender and moist. When shredded, it gives the compote the texture of rillettes. The main difference between this compote and rillettes is lightness—instead of enriching it with duck, goose, or pork fat, Vanel’s recipe calls for a small amount of fresh cream. The tangy, piquant touch of sorrel rounds out the dish, and the rich, plump prunes make a sweet counterpoint and a textural impression of fat.
This dish must be made 2 to 3 days in advance so the compote has time to mellow. It is wonderful on thin slices of lightly buttered toast.
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- 1 mature stewing rabbit or fryer (about 3 pounds), fresh or frozen
- 2 c dry white wine
- 2/3 c plus 2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c sliced carrots
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 5 oz pancetta, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 4 c unsalted chicken stock
- Herb bouquet: 3 sprigs parsley, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 3 fresh sprigs, 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 sprig, and 1 bay leaf tied in cheesecloth
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 12 fresh sorrel leaves, depending upon size and pungency, finely shredded
- Fresh lemon juice
- 12 pitted prunes
- 1 c brewed tea, preferably linden or orange pekoe
2. THE FOLLOWING DAY, remove the rabbit and pat dry. Strain the marinade, reserving the vegetables and liquid separately.
3. Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a large skillet over moderately high heat, sauté the pancetta cubes in the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, transferring them to a 4-quart casserole as they are browned.
4. In the same skillet over moderate heat, brown the rabbit pieces in the fat, a few at a time, on both sides. Transfer the rabbit pieces to the casserole as they are browned. Add the reserved vegetables to the skillet and sauté over moderately high heat, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, add the vegetables to the casserole.
5. Add the mustard to the casserole. Set over low heat and cook, stirring, to blend the mustard with the juices exuded from the rabbit, pork cubes, and vegetables.
6. Pour off the fat from the skillet and deglaze with the strained marinade. Bring to a boil, stirring, then immediately remove from the heat. Slowly stir the marinade into the casserole.
7. Add the chicken stock to the casserole and bring to a boil, skimming. Add the herb bouquet, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cover tightly. Transfer to the oven and bake, covered, for 4 hours, or until the rabbit meat is falling off the bones.
8. Carefully remove the rabbit pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain the liquid into and skim off as much fat as possible. Return the cooking liquid to a clean saucepan and bring to a boil. Set the pan half on and half off the heat and boil slowly for 20 minutes, skimming off any fat and other impurities frequently.
9. Meanwhile, bone each piece of rabbit, being sure to remove all the tiny bones with your fingers. Crush the meat with the back of a fork. Place in a wide bowl.
10. Add the cream to the reduced cooking liquid and boil until the sauce is reduced to 1 cup. Add the shredded sorrel and bring to a boil. Pour the hot sauce over the rabbit and let cool. The rabbit meat should absorb all the sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper, and, if you want extra piquancy, a few drops of lemon juice. Pack down in an oiled stainless steel bowl and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 7 days.
11. THE DAY THE COMPOTE IS TO BE SERVED, soak the prunes in a small saucepan of hot tea until swollen. Then simmer for 10 minutes; drain. Set aside until ready to serve.
12. About 1 HOUR BEFORE SERVING, remove the compote from the refrigerator. To serve, unmold onto a round platter. Garnish with the prunes.
Keywords: Appetizer, Main Dish, French
( RG1484 )