A whole unboned stuffed roast rabbit may be a thing of beauty, but it is impossible to carve; the stuffing is crushed and scattered and the flesh shredded as one attempts to sever sections of the backbone and the large quantity of stuffing engulfed by the rib cage can only be reached with a spoon once the initial carnage is finished. A boned stuffed saddle is cut into neat slices without further ado.
To Bone a Saddle
Cut the rabbit in two at the vertebral joint between the second and third rib, the two terminal ribs adhering to the saddle section (scrape the meat free from the remainder of the ribcage and from the forelegs and put it aside with the liver and the heart for the stuffing; the bones will be joined to the neck, the head, and those from the saddle to prepare a stock).
A small, sharply pointed paring knife is easier to work with than a boning knife: Lay the saddle out flat, back to the table, legs farthest away from you (best work seated and relaxedly). Remove the ribs from the inside surface of the thin apron of flesh, pinching the flesh downward, away from the rib on each side, slipping the point of the knife through the flesh just beneath the rib and slitting it free; break it loose from its point of attachment to the spinal column.
The median described by the spinal column inside the carcass serving as a starting point, loosen the flesh progressively the entire length of the backbone, working mostly with the tip of the knife, following carefully the undulating cross-like contours of the vertebrae. Don’t attack the filets until the filets mignons have been folded outward, remaining attached to the filets but exposing the wing-like protrusions to each side of the vertebrae. Loosen the flesh between the wings of joining vertebrae with the knife tip. Now free the filets almost to the back, leaving the summit of the spinal column attached the whole length.
The final detachment of the length of spinal column is the only delicate part of the operation, for each vertebra is terminated by a cartilaginous attachment reaching to the outside surface of the flesh; to avoid piercing the flesh at any point, one must snip through each vertebral extremity, leaving its cartilaginous tip embedded in the flesh, the tip of the knife then describing an inverted U to free the flesh between joining vertebrae. It may be easier to break off sections of two or three vertebrae as they are freed from the back, and one may, without inconvenience to carving, leave the final joint at the base of the tail.
To Lard the Saddle
Turn the saddle over, legs spread out, back facing up. Cut the fatback into long strips about
A pound of green chard leaves without ribs, parboiled, squeezed dry, and chopped, will render the stuffing even more bonne femme in spirit and more rustic in flavor.
It is possible to leave the rabbit whole (removing the eyes for aesthetic reasons), but the spinal column, from the rib cage to the base of the tail, must, in any case, be removed; in this case, there being nothing from which to prepare a stock, the breadcrumbs are soaked either in water or in the strained marinade and squeezed dry (the marinade saved for basting).
Parboiled little peas scattered over the rabbit at the moment of serving affords a pretty picture and a delicious accompaniment—or parboiled, drained, and butter-stewed, creamed sorrel will marry wonderfully.
Marinate the boned and larded section of rabbit for several hours, turning it around and over in the marinade two or three times (or, covered and refrigerated, marinate overnight). Just before preparing the stuffing, remove it from the marinade, sponge the outside surface dry with a towel, and leave it, back down, on the towel, waiting to be stuffed. Strain the marinade.
Reduce the strained stock, over a high flame, in a small saucepan, to a syrupy consistency—there should be only about
Duxelles: Stew the onion gently in butter until softened but not colored, add the mushrooms, seasoned with salt and pepper, turning the flame high, and toss until all liquid has been evaporated and the mixture is dry enough to begin sticking slightly to the pan, stir in the parsley, then a moment later add the lemon juice and nutmeg and remove from the heat.
Mix together the duxelles and all the other stuffing ingredients in a large mixing bowl, using your hands, squishing, swirling, and beating until completely homogeneous.
Begin sewing the rabbit up before stuffing it, allowing a single long (about a yard) length of string, passing the trussing needle first through the flesh joined by the legs at the base of the tail and tying the end of string, then sew, in a spiraling manner, holding the borders of the aprons together and piercing them
Use a shallow oval gratin dish just large enough to hold the roast easily. Place it, larded back up, in the dish, cross the bone ends of the hind legs and tie a string around them to hold them in place, dribble olive oil over the roast, patting with your hand to evenly distribute it, salt and pepper the surface, and roast for about hours, beginning at 450°, turning the oven down to 350° 10 minutes later, and, after about 20 minutes, beginning to baste with the fat from the roasting dish. As the tips of the lardons and the surface of the roast begin to take on a bit of color (after, say, 30 to 40 minutes—one must feel one’s way), start basting with the marinade,
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.