Thursday, May 7, 2009

Eating the Easter Bunny

Vegetarians and vegans beware: In this edition of Viva Robusto, I document the killing and eating of a couple of cute, furry bunnies.

The story begins a few months ago, when Liz's friend Jessi from grad school contacted me on Facebook after one of my Viva Robusto updates. Turns out she and her husband are particularly resourceful foodies, making the most of their modestly-sized NE Portland yard to raise chickens, grow all manner of vegetables and, now, raise a crop of rabbits for meat.

The first batch of bunnies was going to be ready for slaughter in a few weeks; did we want to come over to document the process -- and the first meal -- on our blog?

Naturally I jumped at the opportunity, although I told Jessi that Liz would have to take the gory pictures if they wanted photos of the processing.

Well, we ended up missing out on the actual bunny killing, which left me relieved and Liz somewhat disappointed. But we did come over to sample and photograph their first meal prepared with homegrown meat -- Rabbit Cacciatore.

As the cacciatore simmered on the stove, Jessi led us on a tour of her incredible backyard -- in which nearly every inch of land is being put to good work growing vegetables or housing chickens and rabbits.

The reproductive cycle of rabbits is downright amazing. The male stud rabbit is kept in a separate cage -- until it's time to fertilize the female. When the male and female are placed in the same cage they instantly have sex, and the female gives birth to anywhere from 2-10 babies about a month later. A few weeks after that, it's possible to repeat the process!

Meanwhile, the batch of young rabbits is ready to process and eat in just a few short months, with each rabbit yielding around 2 pounds of meat. I haven't done the math, but it seems like even with only one male and female, two people could practically live off rabbit alone if they were so inclined. Talk about sustainability.

On to the pictures. Here's the lucky stud rabbit:

Here's the mother:

And last but not least, here's the cacciatore:

This is a "hunter-style" Italian dish with tomato, mushroom, onion and plenty of herbs and spices. It was already simmering when we arrived so we don't have any prep pictures. But here's what it looked like on the plate and ready to eat:

This was the big moment for Jessi and her husband. There was a bit of pressure associated with that first bite of homegrown rabbit -- after all, they had another 10+ pounds sitting in the fridge -- it had better be good!

I'll spare you any drama -- it was fantastic. A little more complex and hearty than chicken, but far from gamey. We ate it with homemade bread and oven-roasted asparagus, and it made a wonderful meal.

Of course, you're probably still wondering -- what did we actually eat on Easter Sunday? Turns out my parents had been saving a nice big chunk of ham from the Speranzas' pig for just such an occasion. So we had a homegrown, nitrate-free ham slow-roasted with some kind of sweet bourbon glaze, and it was spectacular.

Most of the cuts of meat from the Speranzas' pigs look quite different than their store-bought equivalents. They're darker and almost kind of gray -- not as attractive in their raw state, really -- but incredibly flavorful when cooked and healthier than store-bought pork.

This roast was just off the charts in my opinion. My parents brined the ham in advance so it was tender and juicy, and the salty/sweet contrast between the meat and the sweet bourbon glaze was to die for. I ate approximately 3 pounds on my own and promptly got the .

Wrapping this post up, here are a few other notable meals we've enjoyed lately.

Some kind of African peanut/curry/vegetable stew that Liz prepared. A sprinkle of cilantro and fresh-squeezed lime on top... we'll be making this again.

Coffee cake muffins. Also made by Liz.

Our first attempt at , an Italian flatbread. Topped here with brie, fresh basil and prosciutto. I made the bread itself a little too thick, but this is another one we'll continue to experiment with.

Another potato leek soup -- this time using Ina Garten's recipe topped with crispy shallots. The shallots really make the dish.

That's it for now. Hopefully we'll get to do some grilling this summer -- we packaged our grill with the house when we sold in 2007 and we're itching to get back in the game.

1 comment:

John R said...

man.... Dan you eat good!