After my quasi-review of Kathleen Flinn’s The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, I thought that I would be remiss if I didn’t at least try one of the recipes included at the end of every chapter in the book. What review could be complete without an attempt to walk in Kathleen’s footsteps and master a dish from her famed alma mater?
I decided to try the most Cordon Bleu-y dish in the book — Lapin a la Moutard, a.k.a. Rabbit in Mustard Sauce. Not something found in the average home cook’s repertoire, rabbit is nevertheless quite easy to work with. It has been compared in flavor to dark-meat chicken, but I find that it is far less greasy than a drumstick or thigh tends to be. The rabbit I purchased at my local grocery store (I know – can you believe it?) was skinned, gutted and beheaded, but otherwise whole.
I invited my two most adventurous fellow chefs/dining companions — my mother and grandmother — to help me prepare and eat the little beast. We began with butchering, which wasn’t really so hard — again, much like chicken — except for the fact that I didn’t really know what to do after I had separated off the legs. Was the breast/torso supposed to be left whole? The meat there was pretty thin, so I didn’t want to take it off the bone… I could have used one of my reference manuals — The Joy of Cooking, The Way to Cook, Jacques Pepin’s Techniques — which may or may not have given me a diagram to follow, but I ended up winging it. The result looked a lot like what Elise came up with here, so I feel pretty good about it!
After all was said and done, the rabbit was served and deemed…DELICIOUS. The dominant flavor of the mustard was mellowed perfectly by the addition of a splash of cream. I neglected to strain the solids out of the sauce, as directed, but the minced shallots and garlic added to the texture of the dish. If you are going for a more refined-looking plate, though, just follow the recipe. Though only a 1/4 cup of sauce was left over after we’d eaten our fill, the family matriarchs forced me to save it in a plastic container since it was so good and “could be used to enhance another sauce.”
After eating this dish, my estimation of Flinn’s book has certainly risen. I’m glad to have a good go-to rabbit recipe for the evenings when my husband’s away and the girls are in town!
Lapin (ou Poulet – chicken may be substituted for the faint of heart) a la Moutarde, from The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
2 1/2 lbs. rabbit pieces or chicken thighs
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbs. dried thyme
3 Tbs. olive oil
4 Tbs. + 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard, separated
1 Tbs. butter
3 shallots, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup brandy (we substituted sherry)
2/3 cup chicken stock
Bouquet garni (parsley, bay leaf tied with twine)
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried
2/3 cup heavy cream (optional – I used about 1/3 cup)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the meat with salt, pepper, and dried thyme. Dredge lightly in flour, shaking off excess. In a Dutch oven large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown pieces on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove meat from the pan and drain the oil. Using a pastry brush or the back of a spoon, apply a generous coat of mustard to each piece; set aside.
Over medium heat in the same pan, melt the butter. Add the shallots and onions and cook until translucent. Stir in garlic. Add the brandy and chicken stock, and simmer until slightly reduced. Add the bouquet garni and rosemary. Return the chicken or rabbit pieces to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for about forty-five minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Remove the meat and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Put the pan on medium heat and bring the pan juices to a simmer for about five minutes, until slightly reduced, skimming off any fat from the surface. (Rabbit is oilier than chicken and will require significant skimming.) Add the remaining two tablespoons of mustard and the cream (if using) and let simmer for seven to ten minutes, until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Once it has thickened, pour sauce through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing it through with a spatula. Check seasonings and adjust, adding salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over the chicken or rabbit pieces.