Photo: Megan Meyer/WFIU
Earth Eats recently spoke with Joel Salatin, a farmer and food advocate who raises rabbits (among other things) on his farm: Polyface Farm, in Swope, Virgina. Polyface farm was featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and you might recognize him from the documentary Food Inc..
Salatin says that rabbit has a lot to offer:
Rabbit is the most dense protein meat that there is. In fact, historically, that’s why the biggest purchaser/buyer of rabbit in our country has been the military for military rations because the protein is so dense that you don’t have to eat very much to feel full. Of course, when you’re packing your meals on your back, you don’t want bulk. It’s a very fine textured, very dense meat, extremely flavorful. Our chefs prepare it all sorts of different ways. Culturally, around the world, Italy, France, the British… rabbit is extremely common and a real delicacy in all of those cultures.”
Raising rabbits for food is starting to take off on farms and in backyards alike — and it makes total sense. Rabbits are healthier, leaner, and a lot friendlier to the environment than most animals.
According to Slow Food USA, rabbits can produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water it takes a cow to produce just one pound. And for urban farmers, they make a lot more sense than chickens. Rabbits are quieter, less smelly, and they’re easier to slaughter.
Rabbit Stew with Tomato And Riesling Wine Sauce
Rabbits are also starting to appear on more and more restaurant menus all over the United States. Chef Daniel Orr says that the domestic rabbit is very mild so you can use it just as you would use chicken, and it is especially good in stews.
Photo: Megan Meyer/WFIU
- 1 whole rabbit (cut into pieces and de-boned)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 20-25 ripe plum tomatoes (peeled & seeded)
- 2 medium Spanish onions – sliced thin
- 3 cloves garlic – finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed fennel
- 3 branches rosemary
- 3 branches thyme
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup Riesling
- 3 cups tomato juice
- 1/2 cup capers
- salt and pepper to taste
Directions (for the tomato sauce):
- In a preheated medium stainless steel sauce pan place the olive oil, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Gently cook until the garlic just begins to become toasty looking.
- Add the onions and continue to cook gently until soft and sweet. Remove herb sprigs and add tomatoes and cook an additional 8-10 minutes until tomatoes lose their rawness.
- Add the remaining ingredients and simmer 10-15 minutes, adjust the seasoning.
Directions (to serve):
- Sauté the boneless rabbit pieces in a large pot
- Deglaze with Riesling wine
- Top with tomato sauce
- Simmer until the rabbit is tender
- Serve with sautéed greens and sautéed polenta
Beef or Bison Stew with Winter Vegetables
This is a great recipe to make for a group of friends – it yields about a gallon and a half of stew.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, for frying, plus more to drizzle
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 to 3 pounds beef chuck shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces (this cut is also called chuck shoulder pot roast and chuck roast boneless)
- sea salt and Aux Poivre Spice Blend
- 1 bottle good quality dry red wine
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 orange, zest removed in 3 (1-inch) strips
- 1/4 teaspoon Sweet Seasons Spice Blend
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 cups beef stock
- 9 small new potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut in 1/2
- 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 cups Assorted Root vegetables such as celery root, turnips, parsnips
- 2 onions- roughly chopped
- 1 pound white mushrooms, cut in 1/2
- fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish
- horseradish sour cream (recipe follows) for garnish
- Preheat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with the oil and butter.
- While the pan is heating, arrange the flour on a large dish. Season the cubed beef with some salt and freshly ground black pepper and then toss in the flour to coat. Shake off the excess flour and add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot pan, being careful not to over crowd the pan, you might have to work in batches.
- Thoroughly brown all of the cubes on all sides. Once all the meat has been browned remove it to a plate and reserve.
- Add the wine to the pan and bring up to a simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon being sure to loosen up all those tasty bits.
- Once the wine has gotten hot add the browned meat, thyme, smashed garlic, orange zest strip, ground cloves, freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste, bay leaves and beef stock.
- Bring the mixture up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquids start to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 2 1/2 hours.
- After 2 hours add halved potatoes, sliced carrots, root vegetables, onions and mushrooms, along with a touch of honey or molasses to balance out the acid from the red wine.
- Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, until the vegetables and meat are tender.
- Add the frozen peas during the last minute of cooking. Season with salt and pepper and remove the thyme sprigs.
- To serve, place the stew in a soup bowl, garnish with parsley, drizzle with olive oil and add a dollop of Horseradish Sour Cream. Right before serving add a slice of Toasted Peasant Bread, half way submerged in the stew.
Horseradish Sour Cream
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- chives, finely chopped, as garnish
Combine sour cream, prepared horseradish and a drizzle of olive oil in a small bowl and mix until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper. Add a dollop of the mixture on top of the stew and garnish with chopped chives.