Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Conejo al ajillo - rabbit confit Sevillan style

My Niece and Nephew got their way a little way back having worn my Sister down after a lengthy battle.  A new member of the family moved in: A rabbit called Onni. And what was I told? "No. before you even have time to ask it, no. You do not get to turn him into a lunch." Come on - even I wouldn't eat everything! No, wait, yeah... there's a good chance I would. 

Rabbit (the wild ones, of course) is widely eaten in Andalusia and especially in the Seville region. That's also where I had some the last time around. And one found its way into my suitcase and into my freezer too. A dead one,  mind you. They have become a more and more common sight in Finland too, though the price (€18 in Finland, €6 in Spain) is enough to make me want to pack my suitcase and head right back to Andalusian sun. 

And before you even ask for it, no. There will be no "before" picture of the creature. The way it looks like a skinned fetus is not terribly appetizing. It even has the head still attached to it so it needs to be jointed before any cooking can begin. Good job there's Youtube!

Conejo al ajillo is one of the most popular rabbit dishes. That means frying the rabbit pieces in oil infused with a hefty dose of garlic. Apparently the gaminess and the strength of the flavour depends on where the rabbit has grown, but every single time I've had rabbit it's surprised me with the mildness - it's nowhere near as gamey as I probably would have liked it to be. Another thing that needs to be pointed out is that there isn't terribly lot to eat in a rabbit and what ever there is, is very lean and bony (very much like feasting on a supermodel I would imagine). So, inspired by Good Food magazine from November 2009 I decided to confit it, a.k.a. cook it in fat. Since, unlike duck, rabbit doesn't have its own fat to do this in, I used a mixture if white wine and olive oil. And the result? Every bit as delectably finger-licking good as duck.

Elsewehere Michael Psilakis advises to cure the rabbit beforehand by mixing 3 tbsp salt with 1 tbsp sugar, rubbing the mixture on the rabbit and letting it cure over a rack in the fridge overnight. After this the pieces are rinsed and patted dry. My organizational skills did not quite reach that far. So another solution would be to brine them by nestling them in thoroughly seasoned water for 15-30 minutes before cooking. Or seasoning them super well before frying.

Continuing with the Sevillan theme I served the rabbit on a bed of chickpeas fried with spinach - a very Sevillan combo.

As a main this feeds 2, as tapas this is enough for 4-6

1 rabbit
salt, pepper
flour 
oil for frying

Confit-mixture:

0,5 l olive oil (not extra virgin)
0,5 l white wine 
juice of 1 lemon
2 bay leaves
2 bulbs of garlic
5 rosemary sprigs

Season the rabbit well. Then toss it in flour and shake off excess (the flour bit is optional but it does help the browning). Fry in oil until they have a nice brown colour. Place the rabbits snugly in a pot, cut the garlic heads in half and put into the pan along with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to boil and continue cooking on slow simmer for 2-2,5 hours until the rabbit is fall-off-the-bone-tender. Keep the lid a little bit open as some of the liquid should be allowed to evaporate. Check occasionally to make sure there's still enough liquid and shake the pot a bit to make sure the meat isn't sticking to the bottom. 

Chickpeas and spinach:

2 cans of chickpeas
300 g spinach
zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
pinch of nutmeg
salt, pepper

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Peel them (the skin comes off as you pinch them between the fingertips). Trim the spinach (remove the stalks and from the bigger leaves also the hard bit in the middle). Heat some oil in a pan, add finely chopped garlic and half of the lemon zest. Toss them in oil and add chickpeas. Continue cooking until they're piping hot all the way through and add spinach leaves. Keep cooking until they've just about wilted. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the rest of the lemon zest scattered on top. Oh yeah, and the rabbit.






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