‘Now, my dears,’ said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, ‘you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.’
-from The Tale of Peter Rabbit
After stewing the choice legs and loins of a Trowlesworthy Farms rabbit, I found myself with a lot of trim. Most notable were the forelegs, the belly-flaps from the saddle, and the kidneys. Besides this there was miscellaneous trim pulled from the carcass. I decided that this would become a rabbit pie.
Making the Recipe
A classical rabbit pie (and yes, rabbit pie is a classical preparation…), would use lean rabbit meat and pork fatback, not rabbit fat. In fact, most non-pork charcuterie preparations call for lean meat in conjunction with pork fat. For instance, a sausage made of chicken or duck would be three parts lean poultry meat, trimmed of all fat, and one part pork fat. This is because pork fat has a creamy, pleasing texture, and a fairly neutral flavour. When cleaning the rabbit carcass, I was left with a surprising amount of beautiful, white fat, especially around the kidneys. I decided for the sake of experimentation and frugality to use this fat in a rabbit forcemeat. Separating the lean flesh from the white fat, I found I had:
- 575 g lean rabbit meat
- 325 g rabbit fat
This is roughly a ratio of 5:3 meat to fat. Most sausages have a ratio of 3:1, but several rich sausages like weisswurst use a higher percentage of fat. I found a rich bratwurst recipe that uses a 5:3 ratio, with milk and eggs for further luxury. I based my rabbit pie forcemeat on this recipe.
With the meat, cream, and egg in the bratwurst recipe, my forcemeat is very much like a mousseline. For a smooth texture and good emulsification of meat and fat, mousselines are usually mixed in a food processor. I don’t own a food processor (and a recent trip to Sears to look at prices confirmed that I will not own one any time soon…) Instead of processing, I used progressive grinding, then a thorough mixing to distribute the cream and egg and develop the meat protein.
When I fried a quenelle to test the seasoning, the forcemeat tasted great and had a pleasant, light, mouthfeel, though the texture was not perfectly smooth. Every so often there were tiny flecks with a gristly feel. They didn’t ruin the meat for me: in fact, once the onions, prunes, and pie crust came into the picture, I didn’t even notice them. But if the forcemeat were to be served as a simple boudin blanc, these gristle-bits might draw attention.
I’ve racked my brain to figure out where exactly these bits came from. There was definitely some skin in the meat trim that I didn’t remove, but the bits had an almost fibrous quality that I don’t think skin would have. Ultimately I must have missed some sinews in the meat, but I can’t imagine where they would have been.
My trim problem will have to be solved, but the recipe itself was a success. The delicate meat, the fruit, the four spice (I call quatre épices “four spice”…) and the buttery, flaky pie crust all married happily. I’ll definitely be making this again. The (almost) complete recipe and process are below.
- 500 g lean rabbit meat
- 300 g rabbit (or pork) fat
- 15 g kosher salt
- 100 mL heavy cream
- 1 egg
- 1.5 tsp four spice (recipe below)
- 60 g onion, brunoise
- 60 g prunes, chopped
The Pie Crust (makes enough for two rounds, top and bottom):
- 360 g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 240 g unsalted butter
- 120 mL cold water
- pinch of kosher alt
- 2 parts black pepper
- 1 part cinnamon
- 1 part nutmeg
- 1 part clove
- Combine meat, fat, salt, and four spice. Keep mixture very well chilled while flavours combine.
- Gently sweat onions and cool very well.
- Prepare the pie crust.
- Taking all usual precautions to keep meat and equipment cold, grind meat mixture through medium plate.
- Grind meat mixture through small plate.
- Mix with paddle attachment on lowest setting for one minute. Beat egg into cream. Slowly add to forcemeat. Increase speed to Level 2 and mix another minute.
- Fold in chilled onions and chopped prunes.
- Saute a small portion of the forcemeat to test seasoning.
- Spread forcemeat into pie crust. Top with second crust.
- Bake in 350°F oven until meat reaches 180°F and pie shell has browned.
Serving suggestion: with apple slices. A little aicidity to cut the fat. Plus apples and four spice are good buddies.