Braising, a cooking process where food is first browned in a small amount of fat, and then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid is one of my favorite culinary techniques. The long, slow cooking develops flavors and tenderizes the food by gently breaking down the fibers. This preparation is especially delicious for hard-to-eat meats still on the bone, like lamb shanks, ham hocks, chicken wings or even rabbit pieces.
Once you have developed your technique, the flavor combinations are endless, varying with the ingredients and the creativity of the cook. Root vegetables like carrots, celeriac, turnip and rutabaga, add a robust and caramel hint. Onions add sweetness, and mushrooms have earthy overtones. Stock as the liquid, plays an important role in taste; but don’t overlook juices like tomato or apple cider, or even small amounts of wine or beer.
The word braise originates from the French word braiser. Here in the states, a braiser is also an ovenproof, heavy, cooking pot that can go from stovetop to oven, an extremely valuable cooking tool and worthwhile investment. The le Cruset brand is one of my favorite. The recipe for Braised Rabbit with Mushrooms is from my archives. This dish is also delicious when prepared with chicken, in particular an older, bird.
To add a smoky flavor, use bacon fat instead of the olive oil. The aromas from fresh rosemary and chopped olives will transport you to the coast of France.
BRAISED RABBIT WITH LEEKS AND MUSHROOMS
- 4 pieces rabbit or chicken bone in
- 1 cup chopped leeks or onions
- 8 ounces coarsely chopped mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup defatted low sodium chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped (or more to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a heavy ovenproof casserole, heat the olive oil on top of the stove. (If you don’t own a braiser, use a sauté pan and transfer to an oven dish).
- Sprinkle the meat with sea salt and fresh pepper. Brown the pieces in the hot oil. Remove the meat and set aside.
- Brown the leeks and the chopped garlic in the oil. If they start to stick, deglaze the pan with a little chicken stock. Add the mushrooms and cook them until they start to give up their water. Sprinkle with the dried thyme and sage.
- Add the remaining chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the meat pieces, put the lid on the casserole (or transfer the mixture to the casserole dish) and bake in the oven until the meat falls off the bone and is tender, about 50 – 60 minutes.