“Cook! Where’s my hasenpfeffer!?!?” We all know the line from the the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the overbearing king tasks his lowly chef (a humbled Yosemite Sam) to make a dish he’s never even heard of much less prepared before. In this month’s culinary adventure, the part of the beleaguered cook will be yours truly. Why hasenpfeffer you ask? Well, because the Master of Ceremonies, the Captain, the Man with the Plan, our beloved Editor in Chief fancies that he would like to endeavor to raise rabbits…also hasenpfeffer is really, really good! While considering raising rabbits, Mr. Tringale also considered he had never eaten rabbit and would have no idea what to do with the meat of said critters. I of course, suggested hasenpfeffer. This fantastic German rabbit stew is rich and tasty and will warm you on a cold day as well as stick to your bones. So without further ado, grab a pot and let’s get to it!
First and foremost, we’ll need to acquire a rabbit or hare (with or without genius comedy timing). For this you may use your preferred method, be it carefully tracking the beast through the woods, tricking him into getting into a pot after he comes to your door looking to borrow carrots, or do what we did and go to your local grocer and purchase one. Most often they will be found in the frozen aisle and not sold fresh in the meat case unfortunately. However, if you have a good poulterer or butcher you deal with on the reg they most likely can get you a fresh one. Either way, this may well be the most difficult part of preparing this dish because from here on out it’s quite literally gravy.
Our cast of players:
2 rabbits or 1 large hare
1 cup water
1 cup red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
½ tsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp course ground black pepper
1 Tbsp crushed juniper berries
4 fresh bay leaves
5 whole cloves
½ ts ground nutmeg
2 cloves crushed garlic
½ cup chopped green onions (both green and white parts)
4 knobs butter
1 ½ cups flour for dredging
¼ cup sour cream
First thing’s first here, there’s a couple different ways we can deal with this bunny. You can choose to keep the beast whole or you could part it out like a chicken, which is what I did. Should you choose to keep it whole, after the long braising you’ll need to pull the meat from the bones by hand and return the meat to the gravy, which is totally awesome and no muss no fuss when it comes to chowing down. On the other hand, if you part out the varmint you’ll get four nice quarters with legs, a couple of boneless belly flaps (rabbit bacon), two nice pieces of back with some tasty loin meat on them, and some boney ribs with some morsels you kinda gotta work for. So the choice is yours and now we may proceed.
Take all your marinade ingredients and whisk them together in a bowl. Next, we’re gonna put our rabbit whole or in parts into a nonreactive vessel (read glass, stainless steel, or copper) and pour our marinade over it and toss everything about making sure we get the goodness in all the nooks and crannies. Next, it’s off to the fridge to soak up some flavor and adjust our attitude. Now we do nothing. That’s it, just walk away for a couple days. Yup, two days, 48 hours, the rising of two suns. Just go in and turn everything about every several hours to make sure all parts get fair treatment.
After you’ve spent the last two days trying to keep yourself busy it’s time to get back at it. Remove the rabbit from the marinade and pat it dry, making sure to reserve our precious liquid love. Set the oven to preheat at 325. Now take a skillet, or better yet a dutch oven, and put it on a medium heat with our butter in the pan. Meanwhile let’s take our rabbit and dredge it in our flour seasoned with a little salt until it’s all good and coated and happy happy. Now we simply brown the beast in the butter, mind you we’re not looking to cook the thing here just get a nice golden brown crust. When we’ve got some good color on it remove the meat to a plate…unless you used a dutch oven for browning, in which case just strain the marinade through a colander into the pot, cover, and stick it in the hot box. If you browned the rabbit in a skillet then we need to transfer it to an oven safe pot or large dish, cover and…well you know.
Being as rabbit hasn’t a bit of fat, and the sucker is nothing but a bunch of really, really lean muscles that have done nothing but hop vigorously it’s whole life, we need to go for the long braise here to get it nice and fall off the bone tender. Let’s start checking it at about two hours in, if the meat is tender and melty then remove from the oven. If it still seems a bit tough and stringy give it another thirty minutes or so and check it again and on and on until it’s ready.
Now is the time that we can choose to debone the meat or not. If that’s the direction you choose to go then do so and return the deboned meat to the pot with the gravy. If leaving it in pieces then we skip to the next step of adding our sour cream to the whole concoction and giving the whole thing a stir.
That’s it! We’re all done. Congratulations! You’ve just accomplished what Yosemite Sam couldn’t. Now what are you gonna do with it? If you’re so inclined you could serve it atop spaetzel, a tiny German dumpling that is most definitely a labor of love to make…trust me. You could also serve it with potatoes, rice, noodles…hell put it in a bowl by itself and eat it for that matter with a piece of nice crusty bread. Should one feel they need a side dish I highly recommend purple cabbage stewed with apples, caraway, and a bit of vinegar. The sky’s the limit! Until next time, enjoy your hasenpfeffer and eat well my friends!
If you have any questions about this dish, feel free to e-mail Junky Joe! JunkyJoe@EatLocalCNY.com
- Junky Joe.