Monday, August 15, 2011
About the only time a you will find a rabbit looking languid is when you are cooking one. Looking at this little wild creature on the grill I was surprised to notice how graceful the shape of the rabbit body was, what lovely lines to the arching back and tiny yet sumptuous, muscled legs. The famously frenetic animal suddenly looked so relaxed.
These bunnies are pretty wild. The couple that sells these rabbits at the market raises them in a fairly controlled yet natural bunny habitat: they forage for nearly all of their food. Of course we like the taste and idea of this production model, but it is was our older daughter who originally motivated us to eat more wild, or at least not completely un-wild, animal protein.
When Colby was about a year old and we were wide open to any ideas to help her intensely fragile, erratic neurology, I was talking with her acupuncturist. It was she who suggested wild animal protein, animals with real muscles who had roamed and foraged, on land or sea. It made intuitive sense to me when she said it, and then the evidence pored in when we gave Colby her first taste of red meat, very free range Bison. She was ravenous for it and slept solidly for the first time since her seizures started. She had more energy than ever the next day, despite the monster dose of anti-convulsants she was on.
We kept exploring: sardines, wild salmon, rabbit, duck, venison, anything we could find that was raised or grew in relative wildness. The question we asked in making choices was simple: does it, this animal, actually have muscles? And not just from standing. Has it had to run for its life, been rained on, felt the sunshine?
This lovely, languid bunny had certainly felt the sunshine. And in its honor we sat in the sunlight outside, on the grass, feeling half wild ourselves. Colby tore into the sinuous protein with gusto, and slept well that night.
Line the bottom of a skillet or roasting pan with pancetta (or smoky bacon) sliced about 1'16" thick. Rinse, pat dry a large rabbit (3-4lbs) and put in pan on top of pork. Massage the rabbit with olive oil. Salt liberally. Crack black pepper all over inside and out. Stuff fresh rosemary, thyme, savory and a sprig of oregano in the cavity. Roughly chop 5 cloves of garlic and toss around the rabbit and in the cavity. Throw in a handful or two of green, briny olives. Add some duck fat (if you like) and a generous splash of dry white wine. You may also put a whole head of garlic to roast at the same time, if you like.
Get a roaring wood fire (hardwood, hardwood charcoal or a combination) going in a grill with a top, like a Stoke or Weber. When the fire is about 400 degrees put the pan (open) on the grill and close the top. Periodically baste the beast. Turn it over in the pan every 20 minutes or so. Depending on the size of the rabbit, it should take an hour or so. Don't let it get overcooked. You can also take the rabbit out of the pan before it is too cooked and finish it directly on the grill for a variation.
Serve with green beans and potatoes (tossed in olive oil and lemon juice) with the pan juices and olives. Spread the soft, roasted garlic on country bread.