Fergus Henderson’s recipes for braised rabbit and beetroot salad – The Guardian

Two elegant but unfussy autumnal dishes of braised rabbit, mustard and bacon; and a deep-red salad of beetroot, red onion and cabbage, creme fraiche and chervil
Today’s recipes are in a pleasing seasonal purgatory, but speak chiefly of summer, even though they are made with ingredients that will not cause guilt when bought in the colder months. This makes them ideal to have in your arsenal for when the weather is turning. They are a celebration of deconstruction – not in the nouvelle cuisine sense, where perfectly sensible things are taken apart in a series of blobs, whooshes and towers (such plates speak of food that has been breathed on a little too much). The intervention of the knife and fork is inevitable, so we should welcome the messing-up process; there is a positivity to a method in which deconstruction is the final act of construction – swirling together piles of capers, beetroot, creme fraiche and leaves, or picking the flesh off rabbit bones for the joy of leftovers. These dishes enjoy the input of St John’s executive chef, Jonathan Woolway, and both have the sort of understated elegance you can expect at our new venture, St John Marylebone, which opens later this month.
Any leftovers can be picked off the bone and served the next day with tagliatelle and a gesture of chopped tarragon.
Prep 10 min
Cook 2 hr 20 min
Serves 6, or 4 enthusiastic rabbit lovers
1 tbsp duck fat or lard
Sea salt and black pepper
2 wild rabbits
(about 600g each), both jointed into 2 shoulders, 2 legs and 2 saddle sections (farmed rabbits make a good substitute if you lack a shotgun or a trusted supplier)
1kg piece smoked streaky bacon, chopped into hearty chunks
18 shallots, peeled
12 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 bunch
sage, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
500ml dry cider
Chicken stock – you’ll need enough to fill your ovenproof dish
2 healthy tbsp dijon mustard
4 healthy tbsp creme fraiche

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Put the fat in a frying pan on a medium heat, season the rabbit, then brown it all over, in batches if need be. Transfer the seared rabbit to an ovenproof dish deep enough and wide enough to accommodate everything later.
In the same pan, brown the bacon, then add the whole peeled shallots and garlic, leave them to soften without colouring, then introduce the bay leaves and sage to the pan. Nestle everything in around the rabbit in the ovenproof dish.
Put the ovenproof dish on the hob, bringing everything to a sizzle, then add the cider and reduce by half. Add enough stock just to cover the rabbit, being careful not to flood the nest.
Whisk the mustard and creme fraiche in a small bowl. Using a splash of the braising liquid, loosen the mustard mixture, then stir it all into the braise. Cover with foil and roast for about two hours, or until tender and giving.
Too often you are offered a fait accompli (the inevitable) on a plate, a weave of ingredients in which your only involvement will be to make a mess of it with your knife and fork. Well, here is a salad that welcomes the messing-up process.
Prep 5 min
Assemble 5 min
Serves 6
For the salad
2 raw beetroot, peeled and finely grated
¼ raw cabbage, core cut out and discarded, the rest very finely sliced
1 small red onion, peeled, cut in half from top to bottom and finely sliced
6 healthy dollops of creme fraiche
2 good bunches of chervil, or 1 bunch of dill, leaves picked
For the dressing
Healthy splashes of extra-virgin olive oil
A gesture of balsamic vinegar
1 small handful extra-fine capers
Sea salt and black pepper

Make the dressing by mixing everything in a bowl. Toss the three red ingredients through the dressing, then place a bushel of this red mixture on each of six plates.
Nestle a blob of creme fraiche next to it, as if the two ingredients are good friends, not on top of each other as if they were lovers. Finally, rest a clump of the chervil (or dill) in a friendly fashion next to the other ingredients and serve.
Fergus Henderson is chef/co-owner of St John and St John Bread & Wine in London. A third site, St John Marylebone, opens later this month.

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