In her seminal book “The Way to Cook”, Julia Child writes that “while attitudes about food have changed, fortunately the principals of good cooking have not. The more one knows about it, the less mystery there is, the faster cooking becomes, the easier it is to be creative…and the more pleasure one has in the kitchen.”
I agree. Once you’re comfortable with a technique, or a method in which to cook something, the possibilities for imaginative and inspired cooking become limited only to your ingredients. Plus, when you’ve learned a technique and the all-important steps to follow, it becomes part of your repertoire. Then the real fun begins as you can start playing with variations.
Braising, the process of simmering meat in aromatics, vegetables and wine, (all while filling the kitchen with mouth-watering aromas), is the soul of good home cooking. Whether it’s a beef stew, lamb shank, or pot roast, each is made in basically the same way. The meat is first browned, and then simmered in a fragrant liquid. Complete with a sauce, this meat can then be transformed into multiple meals.
The preparation for Cider and Bacon Braised Rabbit (or Chicken) utilizes the simple technique of simmering to cook the meat so that it can easily be removed from the bones. Once the meat is removed from the carcass, the bones and skin are returned to the pot to make a luscious stock for sauce.
Jars of savory cooked meat and sauce in the refrigerator are a multitude of quick,
easy and delicious meals just waiting to happen. I liken it to feasting on the remains of the Thanksgiving turkey and gravy.
Use your newfound skill to create hearty hot meat sandwiches, flaky pot pies, appetizing soups and inspired pasta and rice. Congratulations! For today’s busy household, you have just unlocked the key to creating delicious, nourishing, home-cooked meals. Cook once, eat twice…or more!
CIDER & BACON BRAISED RABBIT (OR CHICKEN)
- 2 rabbits about 5 – 6 pounds total, or 1 similar sized chicken, cut into pieces
- 6 – 8 pieces bacon
- 4 onions quartered
- 3 – 4 cups cider
- 1 cup stock chicken or rabbit or veggie stock
- 3 bay leaves
To braise the rabbits:
- Wash the rabbits and pat dry with paper towels. In a heavy pot large enough to accommodate the rabbits, cook the bacon and render the fat. Remove the bacon, reserving for later.
- Add the onions to the bacon fat and cook until they soften. Add the rabbits and brown on all sides. Add the stock, and scrape the browned pieces off the bottom of the pot. Add about 1 cup of cider and the bay leaves and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until the meat is done and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- Remove the carcass from the pot and allow to cool. When the carcass is cool enough to handle, pick off all the meat from the bones.
To prepare the gravy:
- Add the bones and skin back to the pot. Add enough cider to cover the bones. Boil for about 1 hour or more to make a nice tasting stock.
- While the stock is cooking, chop the rabbit into bite sized pieces, storing in the refrigerator until ready to use again.
- Drain the stock, discarding the bones. Boil the remaining liquid until reduced by one-half. To thicken, in a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Add a small amount of stock to make a roux, then stir the roux into the hot stock, stirring constantly until you have nice smooth gravy. Season the gravy with sea salt and fresh pepper.
To make a pot pie:
- Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry crust. Add chopped meat to the pie
- Cover with gravy.
- Add a second pastry crust to the top. Bake at 400 degrees until the pie starts to bubble, about 50 minutes. Let set for 10 minutes before slicing.
To make a hot sandwich:
- Add meat and gravy to a pot on top of the stove and heat until just starting to boil. Serve on buttered toast.
To make a Shepard’s pie:
- Fill a casserole dish ½ full with meat and smother with gravy. Top with mashed potato. Add dots of butter to the top. Bake in 350 -degree oven until bubbly and the top is golden.
To make a pasta or rice dish:
- Cook your favorite pasta or rice. Heat the gravy and meat and serve over pasta or rice. Garnish the top with chopped parsley and grated cheese.
To make a soup:
- Add gravy and meat to the soup pot. Add choice of chopped veggies and enough water to cook. Simmer until the veggies are done.