"In the Bag" blogging challenge is hosted by Scott over at The Real Epicurean. The rules of the challenge are simple: cook something using the ingredients in the bag and write a blog post about it.
This month Scott has given us game. This gave me the perfect excuse to use my kitsch rabbit cutter for the first time and to dig out a recipe from one of my favourite chefs, Fergus Henderson. The recipe, from Henderson's Beyond Nose to Tail, is one of several to use his trotter gear. This is a rich stock made from pig's trotters cooked in Madeira and chicken stock. It's easy to make (you can find a recipe here), but you will probably have to give your butcher a few days' notice to get hold of pig's trotters. If you're a regular customer, you might even get them for free. I tend to make a big batch of trotter gear a couple of times a year and keep it in handy-sized tubs in the freezer. I pulled out my last tub for this recipe.
The rabbits that found themselves in Andrew Northrop's butcher's shop on Cambridge's Mill Road - and thence my pie - hadn't run fast enough. The butcher offered to joint them for me, but I prefer to do this myself as I usually end up with fewer small fragments of bone to pick out. That said, rabbits have lots of tiny bones and I've yet to make a bone-free pie, so you need to be a little circumspect when eating.
To make the filling, brown the rabbit portions, a dozen peeled shallots, and a pound of diced smoked streaky bacon in goose fat. Add 1/2 bottle red wine, the trotter gear, and enough chicken stock to cover. I had some stock left over from cooking pork belly last week, so used this gelatinous goodness in place of the chicken stock. The pork belly had been brined before cooking which, along with the bacon, contributed enough salt that I didn't need to add any later.
Bring the liquid up to a simmer, then put a lid on the pan and transfer to a 160℃ oven for 2 hours. The meat should come away easily from the bones when it's done - if not, give it a bit longer in the oven. When it's cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones and tear it into bite-sized chunks. I usually find I have too much gravy at this stage, so I lifted out the meat with a slotted spoon and boiled the liquid to reduce it by about one third. Once you're happy with the proportion of meat to gravy, combine the lot, season to taste with salt and pepper, then cool and refrigerate overnight.
Transfer the filling to a large pie dish and cover with suet pastry - made with fresh suet if you can get it. Brush with beaten egg and decorate liberally with pastry rabbits before baking in a 220℃ oven for 30-40 minutes. Made with two rabbits, this pie serves six.
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