I suspect that the rationale for having rabbit on the menu is clear. Before state mandated standards and refrigeration, local sourcing of ingredients was a necessity as opposed to a decision. Anyone that keeps a garden in the area knows that Eastern Cottontail rabbit abound. Since they have been historically accessible as game, it would be reasonable to presume that they were a protein source. Seasonally, they seem quite abundant and a single good sized rabbit can provide a meal for multiple people. This makes them ideal for service at a country inn.
I recognize the irony of a country inn having a product shipped hundreds of miles when fresher products feast in our garden. While local naturally fed rabbit are certainly plentiful, I prefer mine without lead and with the USDA stamp. We get our rabbits from Fossil Farms, they farm-raise all sorts of game meat, making them accessible to commercial kitchens. While we get their products through our meat vender they do ship directly. So if you have an interest in game meats you should check them out (www.fossilfarms.com).
This spring we are serving Rabbit Paprikash, a preparation that leaves the meat tender, delicious, and colorful. It comes with potato pancakes and sweet and sour cabbage. This is a hearty dish to get you through those still-cold spring nights. It utilizes crops that could be held over winter (potatoes and vinegar-preserved cabbage) as well as the seasonally abundant rabbit.
A recipe follows, give it a try and see what you think. Or, if you don’t feel like cooking, come out and try it at Century Inn. Call ahead of time and we’ll reserve one for you!
Serves: 6-8 people
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
3 each Whole rabbit or small chickens cut in half
¼ cup Flour
¼ cup Hungarian Paprika
2 Tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 Tsp. Cracked black pepper
½ cup Vegetable oil
2 each Large carrots, large dice
½ head Celery, large dice
4 each Shallots, large dice
1 cup White wine
6 cups Chicken broth
- Mix flour, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Dry the rabbits and cut them into pieces to fit inside of a deep roasting pan or large sauce pot.
- Toss the rabbits in all of the flour mixture.
- Over medium heat, sear all sides of the rabbits in the vegetable oil. Remove the rabbits from the pan.
- Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
- Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce by ½.
- Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Add the rabbits and cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.
- If using a roasting pan: Place in a 350°F oven. If using a sauce pot: reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook for 1 ½ hours, turning every 30 minutes. Remove when the meat is tender. Add water or chicken stock if the liquid in the bottom seems to be evaporating too much.
- Remove rabbits and strain the sauce (if desired). We puree the vegetables to make a nice hearty sauce.