Fillet of Rabbit on Red Cabbage & Apricot Salad
I hope you are not reading this blog entry with your children. If you are... you may want to ask them to leave. You see... tonight's dinner... was rabbit! Yes, Bugs Bunny, Bambi's little friend "Thumper", the whole supporting cast of Watership Down... I know! Rabbit's are adorable! So cute and sweet and harmless! How could anybody even consider eating them?! Well... maybe because they also happen to be delicious!
All kidding aside, rabbit is a wonderfully mild and tender meat. It is not only suited to braising and stewing, but also to faster, lighter preparations such as this. At the same time, I can't really imagine rabbit ever being a children's favorite dish. So let's make this into something that WE will enjoy...
Do you like gin and tonic as much as I do? Well good! Because what makes this little dish particularly delicious and unique, is the marinade, made with lime, gin and juniper berries... sound good? Well that's because it is!
First things first though- we need to take that fillet off of the carcass. This is a lot easier as it sounds- simply score along each side of the spine with a very sharp knife, and roll the fillets gently off the bones. You will find that the meat is so tender that you can gently lift it from the rib-cage with a little gentle pressure from your fingers. If this is beginning to sound a little anatomical- well, that's because it is! It is all part of the deal! Make sure to remove any sinew or silvery-colored connective tissue, as this will shrink during cooking and make the otherwise tender meat tough. Ok- that's all of the prep-work on the meat done... and I think we deserve a drink. Let's make it a gin this time...
The next step in putting together this dish, is marinade which we will use partly for the meat, but also in a modified version for our salad or slaw dressing. To make this, take 5-6 juniper berries and a half teaspoon of cumin seeds, a clove of garlic, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt and some finely chopped rosemary and grind them into a fine paste using your mortar and pestle. Add the juice of 1 lime and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and whisk together. Make sure to take a few shavings off the lime peel and to soak them in sugared boiling water as we have done in past recipes... We are going to use some more of this finely chopped zest as a tasty garnish again later.
The meat is so tender that I didn't want to let it marinate too long or too intensely, so I simply poured a small amount onto it and let it sit for 20-30 minutes in the fridge. In the meantime, I prepared the red cabbage slaw, which is also very easy to do. Simply finely chop or grate the red cabbage and sprinkle generously with salt. Mash it down with your hands to break up the structure and soften it up. Now add a good pinch of sugar and continue to squeeze it and knead it until it becomes softer. Add half of the juniper and lime marinade and a nice drizzle of honey. Give it a last stir, add a little pepper or chili if you so wish and allow it to sit and soak up the flavors of the lime and gin... Now we can fry those little fillet strips! In a small amount of hot olive oil, brown them quickly on all sides for maybe 2-3 minutes. And that means 6-7 minutes in all- no longer! Remove from the pan, season with a little salt and pepper and drizzle with a little more of the marinade. Wrap in foil and place in a warm oven to finish cooking in its own juices. Cut the apricots into slices and fry them in the same pan that we fried the rabbit in until they are golden and brown. This should only take 2-3 minutes.
And now we are ready to serve!
Cut the rabbit fillets into slices and place on a bed of red cabbage, sprinkled with a few of those slivers of lime zest. Add a few slices of apricot and a drizzle of the marinade. As a garnish, I used a few blackberries so as to have the look of juniper berries... as juniper berries are not really edible in their dried form. But there you have it! Mildly exotic, wildly delicious, light, easy and impressive... I like to think that our little bunny would have approved.... sob!