Stuffed, Roast Saddle and Hindquarters of Rabbit

Râble de Lapin Farci au Four

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Servings:

    4 to 6

Appears in

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 ⅛ inch square (it is easier to cut if well chilled). A larding needle with a hinged crochet at the larger, hollow end (rather than the classic splayed blades) will prevent the lardons from slipping free of the needle while larding. The needle should pierce the flesh with the grain (in the sense of the length of the saddle and of the legs rather than running crosswise), shallowly, surfacing again at about ¾ inch, pulling the lardon in its train so as to leave a ¾-inch section embedded in the flesh; each lardon is then trimmed, leaving about ¼ inch visible at each end (1¼- to 1½-inch lengths, in all, but it is only practical to work with much longer lengths, trimming after they are in place). Lard in rows of alternating alignments (the flesh of the second row being pierced on a line with and at the halfway point between the points at which the lardons of the first row have surfaced).

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.

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Ingredients

  • The larded saddle and hindquarters of a rabbit, saddle boned
  • (About 4 ounces pork fatback for larding)

Marinade

  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Large pinch crumbled mixed dried herbs (or branches of thyme)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Stuffing

  • Stock (bones, split head and neck of rabbit, 1 quart water, sliced carrot, cut-up onion, herbs, very little salt, skimmed, simmered, covered, for 2½ to 3 hours, strained)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 3 ounces stale bread, crusts removed, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac

Duxelles

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped 6 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped or passed through Mouli-juliènne
  • Salt, pepper
  • Handful finely chopped parsley
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Suspicion freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon finely crumbled (or freshly powdered) mixed dried herbs
  • The liver and heart of the rabbit, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces lean loin of pork (or veal), chopped
  • 3 ounces fresh pork fat, chopped (or beef marrow or softened butter)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Thin sheet of fresh pork fat (optional—may be replaced by buttered parchment paper)
  • Olive oil (to rub the roast)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Method

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 ⅓ cup remaining. Pound the clove of garlic to a paste in a mortar, add the breadcrumbs, the Cognac, and the reduced stock, mashing and mixing with a fork to an even consistency.

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 ¼ to ½ inch from the edge at about 1-inch intervals, closing about one third of the belly. Spoon stuffing into and at the entrance to the sewn-up area, lift the rabbit, legs hanging down, and shake it gently to settle the stuffing into place, replace it on its back, and spoon the remainder of the stuffing, mounded, into place; because the flesh shrinks during cooking and the stuffing swells, the stuffing should not be tightly packed. But, with an overabundance of stuffing, one may place a rectangle of sheet pork fat (barde) over the molded surface of stuffing and continue sewing without drawing the borders of the belly aprons completely together, the string thus forming a zigzag pattern across the barde’s surface. Cut a round of barde (or buttered kitchen paper) to hold the stuffing in place at the open end of the saddle, tucking the edges in between the wall of flesh and the stuffing, and, when the whole length of belly has been sewn, continue, crossing the string several times from border to border, forming a large hatchwork to hold the protective barde or paper in place.

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, 3 or 4 tablespoons at a time, continuing to baste regularly and, when the liquid is almost completely evaporated, adding more marinade until (after a theoretical 1 hour and 10 minutes’ of total roasting) the marinade is all gone. Continue basting, watching carefully, until no liquid remains, the juices in the pan having separated into caramelized adherences and loose fat (it happens in a moment’s time); remove and discard the fat from the pan and begin basting with the cream, 3 or 4 tablespoonsful at a time, never letting the pan run dry. After another 20 minutes or so the cream should be used up, the rabbit thickly coated with a voluptuous clotted and mottled glaze. Transfer to a large, preheated serving platter (to facilitate carving), remove strings, clipping the knot and pulling gently from the other end of the string, holding the roast in place the while. If a paper seal was used to replace the barde, remove it. Spoon over what remains of the reduction of basting liquid, taking care not to obscure the attractive pattern of browned lardon tips.

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