And now, for the eating part! (As a quick recap, the adolescent class raised the first litter of the rabbit operation and harvested two fryers in preparation to learn how to cook rabbit.) Most of the class had never tasted rabbit before, and after our experience with the care and harvest of the rabbits, the general consensus about trying rabbit was somewhere between “I’ll try it, but I might not like it,” and “No way.”
However, there was no lack of enthusiasm for the cooking process, especially as led by Neal Wavra. He helped us overcome any reluctance for butchering the rabbit carcass.
Neal made the process of butchering a whole animal (something which overwhelms a good number of adult home cooks) very straightforward and approachable. We began by discussing the parts of a knife and their specific uses, and then talked about the way the animal’s joints and muscle connections will reveal themselves to us as we push, pull, and move the carcass.
Students practiced finding these connections, and breaking down the two rabbits into hind legs and forelegs. With these pieces, we planned to make a peasant style, stew-like dish of seared and baked rabbit with a pan sauce.
To reveal that most tender cut alongside the backbone of the animal, students carefully cut against the bones and carved out the loin. With the loins, we planned to make a little bit fancier dish of rabbit loin on butter braised leeks.
Then we were onto the vegetable preparation. Onions, leeks, and herbs were diced, julienned, and picked and chopped, respectively.
Here we look at the growth pattern of a young garlic to see how the layers of leaves on a leek got that dirt inside of them, and why you’ve got to cut them in half lengthwise to wash them thoroughly.
The remaining portions of rabbit are seared in a large stock pot for stock.
Here, Neal tells us that making rabbit stock attracts bears.
Or probably something about aroma. We seasoned and seared our rabbit leg pieces, and continued to discuss aroma. Short of being able to taste the food as you cook it (in the case of raw meat), staying alert to its aroma is important.
For the rabbit loin, students seasoned and rolled it up neatly for it to be pan-seared and finished off in the oven.
With most of the dishes components nearing completion, we put on the last seasoning touches, washed up and got ready to taste!
With all the Maillard-sizzling good smells wafting through the kitchen, the general consensus about tasting rabbit had officially become “I can’t WAIT!”
At long last, we tried both dishes, and heartily agreed that we would definitely eat rabbit again.
Having seen our rabbit from beginning to end, students continued to think about a concept we’ve encountered in a number of our readings, the “meat paradox,” a term used to capture the problem of humans loving animals and also loving to eat them. Did anybody really want to kill the (admittedly very cute) rabbits? Of course not. Did anybody want to eat the sizzling, dreamy roasted rabbit leg? Of course.
It seems a dilemma unique to humans; it is a mark of humanness. The “meat paradox” necessitates (we guides hope) more and more consideration. How should we go about eating meat? Should we? We’ll continue to explore.
As we left for the day, students did not miss the opportunity to stop by the rabbit quarters and say hello to the “baby bunnies.”