Peas Perfect Partner

By treatyrockbeef - Last updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

Hello May !!  So nice to see you again and may I say you look lovely in your bewildering array of greens.  I marvel at your endless variety of colors – the bright chartreuse of leafed-out oaks, the dusty gray-green of the gnarled old apple tree, the dark blue-green of the lilacs in bloom and the verdant expanse of our recently lush pastures.  According to the Celtic calendar, May’s new growth marked the beginning of summer and was celebrated with agricultural feasts and fertility festivals still seen in rural regions today.

Norse and Germanic communities hold Maypole celebrations where children dance around a symbolic world axis weaving bright ribbons in the joyful motion of youth.  In the Welsh border towns, get too close to the exuberant Morris dancers and you’ll end up with flour on your nose.  For centuries, maidens with flower-twined hair have been crowned May Queens – the Earth’s bride – a ritual gift honoring the regenerative power of life-giving forces around us.  In my home kitchen, we celebrate spring and new greening with rabbit and pea greens.  Adapted from a Cucina Italiana magazine recipe, my simple spring rabbit ragu over pea greens contrasts light fresh flavors with wonderful result.  A ragu is a simmered meat sauce, the term derived from the French “ragouter” (to taste) in this case combining with the holy triumvirate of celery, carrots and onion.

The key step here is to get a good browning caramelization on your rabbit chunks.  I was rescued from potential disaster in this regard by my friend Nemo Bolin, chef-owner of Cook & Brown Publick House in Providence (www.cookandbrown.com) who emphasized the importance of space between your meat.  This allows moisture to escape and gets a nice dry browning sear on your meat on medium-high heat without burning your oil.  The resulting caramelized proteins and sugars on the pan surface build up a “fond”, a classic French term for foundation of the sauce.  These magic brown bits are typically deglazed with stock, wine or brandy, scraped and reduced to make wonderful gravies with satisfying, deep flavor.  Crowd the pan and you build up steam, which pulls moisture, prevents caramelization and leaves you with bland, white boiled meat.  Not so great.

Bone out your dressed, pasture-raised, 3-pound rabbit into one-inch chunks.
Clean and finely dice 2 medium shallots, 2 medium carrots and 2 stalks of celery.
Put the rabbit carcass and leg bones with a medium onion (peeled and quartered), 2 stalks celery and 2 more carrots (rough chopped) in a roasting pan with salt, pepper and splash of olive oil in a 400 degree oven for an hour.  Turn occasionally with tongs adding a splash of white wine halfway through.
In a heavy, wide skillet or pot, heat 1/4 cup good olive oil and 2 T butter on medium-high heat.
Add 1 1/2 T finely chopped sage and stir to combine for 30 seconds.
Add rabbit chunks in batches, if necessary, maintaining your space, turning and browning all sides for 4-5 minutes or longer to get good caramelization.
Add celery, carrot and onion, stir to combine then add 1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of vegetable stock and 1/2 t sea salt.
Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cook covered for 30 minutes.
Remove lid and simmer 20 more minutes or until rabbit is tender and liquid is reduced by 2/3.
Remove rabbit roasted veg from oven and mix into the ragu.  Serve over pea greens topped with fresh cracked pepper and shaved Pecorino.

Know this week’s FARM FACT and save 10% on Treaty Rock Farm grass-fed dry-aged beef at South Kingstown Farmers Market on Saturday May 21st.

What is the name for traditional Germanic May Day festivities marked by dancing and bonfires ??  Walpurgis Night.  May 1st represents an important holiday in the solar pagan agricultural calendar of pre-Christian northern Europe.  Along with November 1st (Samhain to those who follow the Old Ways), these “cross-quarters” fall midway between the equinox and the solstice, marking the beginning and end of the light and dark halves of the year and celebrating the duality of these forces in the Circle of Life.

Go out and dance in the garden..

Respecting the Protein, PMB

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