Rabbit, Three Ways

Rabbit is very under appreciated in the US. I’m sure it’s due to the whole cuddly-pet-bugs-bunny thing. We really are missing out because a rabbit can be very tasty if cooked right. It’s mild and does NOT taste like chicken. The problem with cooking rabbit is that the legs are very different than the loin (or saddle). A chicken can be roasted whole with no problem, but roast a rabbit whole and you will have tough legs and a decent saddle or a dried out saddle and tender legs. You cannot perfectly cook the whole animal.

 So, step one is to divide the rabbit into hindquarters, front legs/shoulder and to debone the saddle (giving you two loins each attached to the belly flap). I also took an idea from Gordon Ramsay and made small and very cute rabbit chops (think miniature lamb chops no bigger than your thumb!) from the rib area. The hindquarters and front legs/shoulder pieces went into a FoodSaver bag with a couple of pats butter, salt and a few sprigs of thyme. These were cooked Sous Vide with the circulator’s temperature set to 170F for 3 hours. They were then rapidly chilled in a water bath and stored in the fridge until grilling time.

 For the loin pieces I made a marinade/stuffing using bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and some herbs. I rubbed this all over them and them put some on the belly flap before wrapping it around the loin a securing with a toothpick. I did nothing to the tiny chops. I lit up my grill and placed a cast iron griddle on  a portion of it. The loin pieces went on the grates over the coals. The legs in the FoodSaver bags were brought up to temp in warm water and seared on the griddle. I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper and very quickly cooked them on the griddle as well because they would’ve fallen through the grill grates.

I served the rabbit portions with Asapragus that was also seared on the griddle and tossed with tomato vinaigrette. Each portion was distinct and delicious. The loin was tender  and full of flavor and crunchy crispy bits from the bread crumbs. The sous vide legs were tender but not falling apart or dry. The chops were little one bite morsels of tender tasty bunny.

Sous Vide Salmon, Brown Rice Risotto and Parsley Sauce

Let me preface this post by admitting my mistake. I overcooked the salmon. Sous Vide fish is usually cooked around 120F and in the case of oily fish it can be even cooked at a lower temperature for a semi-raw effect. For some reason I got my temps confused and cooked this nice piece of fish at 130F. Still it was very well cooked and moist, but it could’ve been better.

I wanted to cook brown rice with it. The “risotto” idea was an afterthought. I had stirred in some chopped chives and a few spoons of olive oil in the finished rice and it looked so nice and creamy. It tasted a bit salty though. In comes the yogurt I had in the fridge. A few tablespoons not only made it delicious, they also made it seem very much like a rich risotto.

The sauce is made from blanched parsley that was pureed with a bit of water, lime juice and thickened with Ultratex-3. That is a hydrocolloid that makes thick luscious mixtures from a thin sauce without any heat and with no additional taste or fat. Fat can mask the delicate and fresh taste of parsley and heating this sauce would have ruined the green color.

This picture above is Diana’s plate. She prefers her proteins, especially fish, nicely browned. So, I coated her fillet piece with a bit of seasoning and very fine bread crumbs before searing for a few seconds. I served mine as is.

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Corned Beef cooked Sous Vide

I’ve been exploring Sous Vide cooking using my Immersion Circulator often with excellent results. Deli-type meats seem like a no brainer for this cooking method, in this case for corned beef. To prepare the beef, I used a good even piece of brisket (even thickness matters a lot for this method) and trimmed most of the fat off it. Then I brined it using Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie recipe. He used salt, sugar, Cure #1 (a tiny bit gives it the pink color and the cured flavor) and pickling spice (bay, cloves, allspice and black pepper among others).

After a few days, the now corned beef went in a Foodsaver bag along with some more pickling spice and a sliced onion. It cooked for about 8 hours at 170 F in the water bath and then I quickly chilled it in a bowl filled with water and ice. It then sat in the fridge for a few days until I was ready to serve it. My main concern here was salt content. I figured normally corned beef is boiled so some of it’s salt will leach out and the meat ends up well seasoned but not salty. In this case, the meat is vacuum pakced throughout and the salt has nowhere to go.

For service I reheated the beef in some hot water and removed it from the bag. I sliced and tasted a piece. Excellent flavor, definitly not too salty. On the other hand I think it should be a touch more tender. I’m thinking next time I’ll cook it around 175 for closer to 10 hours. For dinner I made sandwiches of course. Homemade marble rye, saurkraut and melted Swiss cheese.

Venison with Braised Red Cabbage and Parsnip

I’ve never cooked venison. Sure, I have used sausage made with venison, but never a nice piece of backstrap. So, when a friend of ours was kind enough to give us some of that tender lean cut of deer, I knew I would cook it for a special occasion for Diana and I. This past weekend was our 8 year anniversary, a special occasion for sure.

I had seen this recipe in Gordon Ramsay’s “*** Chef” book, that translates to “Three Star Chef” BTW and it’s the only book of his worth buying.

The Venison:

Mr. Ramsay simply sears the venison in butter and then roasts it to medium rare. I made a change here and cooked the backstrap sous vide in my immersion circulator. This guarantees a perfectly cooked piece of meat that is not dry and cooked exactly to medium rare. I vacuum packed the meat with a bit of butter, fresh thyme, salt and pepper. I let it cook in the water bath at 135 F for about 2 hours while I prepared the meal. It really would’ve been ready in a little over an hour but that’s the beauty of this process. As long as the water temperature is at or a little below the target meat temperature, you can leave the meat in there for a good bit of time with no overcooking or drying. To finish it, I seared the meat for about 30 seconds on each side in clarified butter in a very hot cast iron pan.

The Braised Cabbage:

This was the ingredient that took the most time cooking. A long time. Like 3 hours! It was the best braised cabbage I’ve ever had though. It’s simply cooked with brown sugar, a little red wine vinegar, butter and some salt. It cooks slowly in a heavy pot with a piece of parchment on top. While the cabbage cooks, the mositure evaporates and it caramelizes slightly. Sweet, a bit tangy and not mushy.

The Beet Fondant:

Sliced beets cooked in butter and stock until glazed and soft.

The Parsnip Puree:

I cooked diced parsnips in milk and pureed them with cream, a little butter, salt and pepper. This luscious mixture was velvety smooth and so good I could’ve eaten it by itself. Instead it went into a squeeze bottle to be used for those cool looking parsnip puree drops around the dish.

The Creamed Mushrooms:

Well, Ramsay uses fresh “Cepes” here, aka Porcini muchrooms. Awsome stuff if you can find them…and afford them when you do (think $40/lb at least). Instead I did what I normally do in these situations. I used plain old white shrooms and added reconstituted (soaked in warm water) dried Porcini mushrooms to the mix. The dried stuff is quiet fantastic as well and adds so much flavor to anything.  Mushrooms were suteed and mixed with a little cream.

The Parsnip Chips:

I used a peeler to make very thin slices of parsnips. These were then fried until crisp.

The Red Wine Sauce:

This is a classic red wine reduction made with a base of shallots and some meat scraps. In goes red wine and gets reduced. Then a pint of stock and that gets reduced too. I ended up with a rich delicious and deep colored sauce.

To assemble the dish, I put a nice pile of braised cabbage in a bowl. A slice or two of beet goes on top, then the creamed mushrooms. I sliced the venison on a bias and arranged it all around. The parsnip puree goes around the venison in large dots. Very carefully I add the sauce and top the plate with the parsnip chips. Everything in the dish worked so good. The venison was deeply flavored and tender. It stood up perfectly to the other elements of the dish and as a whole this was a special dish for a special occasion.

Sous Vide Rice

It is really inspiring reading Michale Laiskonis’ Workbook blog. I make it a point to visit the blog and save any new recipe to my collection. You never know when I might need to make a fizzy tablet or a blue corn soda. Not today though. Today, I am posting about another sweet treat done a bit differently. I’ve been experimenting with cooking Sous Vide for a couple months now so when I saw the post about parcooking Arborio rice at 65 C degrees, I had to give it a shot. The idea is that the rice is cooked until the starches gelatinize, but the kernels are not soft yet. The grains are then held until service time where they can be transformed into a risotto or as Laiskonis’ did, into a rich an velvety rice pudding.

Rice Pudding with dried apricots and vanilla bean, served with mangoes and mint.