When my chef friends come to dinner I try to make something out of the ordinary, and preferably from my own ethnic heritage. Enter Wabbit Pie!
I realised making this acted as a tranquilliser for me – days in the planning, little steps done in advance, a microcosm of order in a month gone troppo. I don’t believe in capitalised Positive Thinking, or too much of the ‘if you make it they will come’ beyond the obvious opposite that if you don’t make it they certainly won’t come, but this month (as far as Rough Linen is concerned) has been bejewelled with so many perfect contacts, happy surprises and gifts of God that I am quite overwhelmed.
I told my friend Molly that my head felt like a snow globe and she laughed.
Hence the pie. Order in a pie-case.
I started with the pastry, rendering my own lard three times from ribs I had made for another meal. Don’t stagger back in horror at the idea of lard, this is wholesome and homemade (not Crisco!)
2 cups flour (I used supermilled brown)
2 oz butter, 2 oz lard (butter for sweetness, lard for flakiness)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar (to retard gluten)
ice water to mix – about three tablespoons
(If I were to do it again – and I won’t for a while – I would use a little more flour to fat in the pastry – It was very rich and difficult to roll.) I cut it cold then throw it all in a processor, add the water last. Refrigerate for a hour while you cook the rabbit.
I bought a rabbit from Mark Pasternak, and it was beautiful, firm and fresh. I jointed it and put it in a pot with half an onion, chopped, some chicken fat I had rendered, chicken stock, mushroom stock, a California bay laurel leaf and some thyme and pepper – no salt. I heated it slowly and simmered it for 25 minutes before tasting to see if it was tender. Set aside the meat, and strained the stock.
Chopped two carrots and two celery sticks, chopped mushrooms fresh and dried (hence the mushroom stock), and the remaining onion, which I sweated with a little butter before adding stock to cover. I thickened it with a roux, added a little more stock, salt, a good tablespoon of grainy mustard and some cream (for colour really, it looks better than a clearer sauce).
In the meanwhile I took the meat off the bones, fed the bones to my crabs, seared the chopped giblets in a non-stick pan with a splash of whisky until they were barely cooked, and added everything together, tasting and primping.
Made the pie, painted it with egg yolk, set it on my hot pizza stone in a 400 degree oven for a short while then turned it to about 185 to cook through, for about 35-40 minutes. Served with arugula salad and fresh bread, and a killer Pinot Noir. Naked raspberries, nectarines, figs and grapes for pud.