A few of you have been asking me about my garden. For those of you that don’t know–I like to garden as well as cook. I find it very relaxing and I truly believe that nothing tastes better than when it comes from your garden.
This year I broke ground for a new garden spot. It’s not very big but I already have plans for expansion. The soil needed a little care as years of growing grass have not been kind to it.
After a little TLC–tilling and horse manure–the veggies are well on their way.
One thing I did do a little differently this year, that I thought was pretty nice, is the plant markers that I made out of bark.
I like to use markers for my tomato plants because I always plant a few different varieties and by the fall I don’t remember which one is which. For the past few years I was using plastic markers. Before that I used wooden markers but after using them a few times I would have to throw them away and I felt they were too expensive for what I was getting. So this year, I had some old branches I had cut down in the spring and I took a few bark shavings from them. And they made excellent markers. Little things like this can help keep down the cost of your garden.
Fungi, lots of fungi–this week was all about mushrooms. Sam and I prepared a menu to feature the nicest finds of the season, which included royal trumpets, maitake, beech, pom poms, and white truffles.
Mushroom lovers gathered in the kitchen with us for this special occasion. Cavan and Tom from Wild Purveyors brought the mushrooms and a few delicious local cheeses. A quick introduction was given by the “mushroom guys” and we started to cook.
For an appetizer, we sauteed the royal trumpets and served them on a grilled crostini with raclette cheese melted over them. Then we threw the maitake on the grill, chopped them up, and added another treasure of the season: fiddle-head ferns. We tossed them in a roasted garlic scape vinaigrette. All this was then served over an endive leaf.
The pasta course was Sam’s handmade rustic pasta with pan seared beech mushrooms. (Sam is Italian, so, some things we can’t go without!)
Buffalo sliders were the main course: grilled patties with creamy gorgonzola and pom poms cooked in butter. They were probably the largest sliders I have ever seen–I don’t know if we can really even call them “sliders.”
And for dessert–yes, a mushroom dessert–white truffle panna cotta. I even made a truffle caramel to go over them. They were tasty if I may say so myself.
We loved having this enthusiastic group cooking with us. It was very informative as well, and if nothing else, we shared a little of us and that’s what we enjoy. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to cook with Vivo’s fans.
Before I begin, let me say that I love Thumper as much as anyone. My memories of him frolicking with Bambi in the grass are very vivid. So let me assure you that I understand why many of you are wary of wary of the Hare. However, rabbits have been considered a viable protein source all over the world for centuries. One might even call rabbit Europe’s “other white meat.” So, today, I ask you to set your visions of the Easter Bunny and talking rabbits aside as we give credence to this wine friendly, versatile meat.
Let’s begin with some Rabbit Food History.
According to Rabbit records, our consumption of the hare dates at least as far back as the Phoenicians (3,000 B.C.), whose sailors discovered rabbits.
The Romans later used rabbit meat to feed their soldiers, and even developed enclosed wall areas called “leporaria” to keep wild rabbits ready for eating. In the Middle Ages, Monks kept “leporaria” and began breeding for weight, color and even flavor profile. By the 16th century King Henry VIII took to hunting them for sport (yes, he was a little nuts). And his daughter Queen Elizabeth kept “rabbit islands” where the little critters could run free and flourish. This is actually how Coney Island got its name: the Dutch named the island “Conyne Eylandt” which translates to “rabbit island.”
There are still rabbit islands today, but most rabbits in this country are bred for pets. Which takes us back to our original topic – rabbits as food.
One common misconception is that rabbit tastes like chicken. Well, it doesn’t–it tastes like rabbit! Rabbit is considered a “game” meat and offers a savory, softer flavor profile than chicken. It is low in fat and can be chopped, fried, diced, sliced… prepared any way your hopping heart desires. Rabbit is a white meat and well suited for spring, summer, autumn, or even winter. Because of this versatility it pairs well with many red and white wines.
Chef marinates his rabbit in a flavorful mixture of salt, pepper, garlic, and calvados. The seasoned pieces are sauteed and served with pear, rutabaga, and turnips. What a scrumptious combo! In order to pair wine with this dish, I look at the most dominant components: garlic, its fried preparation, salt, and pear.
In order to stand up to the garlic and the fried preparation, we must choose a wine with enough acid to “cut through” these qualities. Also, we need a wine that will neither accentuate the salt nor overpower the delicate flavors of the pear.
Reds: Oregon/ French Pinot Noir or a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhone Valley
Whites: Alsatian Riesling or a white Rhone such as Marsanne or Rousanne
All of these wines are known for their vibrant fruit flavors yet have enough of a backbone (acid) to stand up to the garlic and fried preparation.
So, there you have it. Prepare Chef Daniel’s Rabbit and Pear dish, choose a wine and remember that food and wine is best when shared!