An excellent gumbo depends almost entirely on the depth of its roux and the quality of the stock or broth on which it is based. Take time to make a deep, chocolate brown roux and use your very best stock or broth. Smoked chicken stock makes this rabbit gumbo soar.
And if you're going to expend the effort to make gumbo, you might as well make more than you need and freeze what you don't use. There's nothing better than the sudden recollection that you have a batch on hand when you haven't had time to make dinner.
Rabbit is finding its way into more home cooking these days, for good reason. This recipe calls for one rabbit, but for a main course, you might wish to use two. Chicken is an easy substitute, even though, contrary to some opinions, one does not taste exactly like the other. Reserve the rabbit's kidneys and liver for another use, such as pate or dirty rice.
Wild rice, with its deep, earthy flavor, complements the game quality of rabbit, so it is a great accompaniment, especially when made with an excellent stock and garnished with toasted pecans. Feel free to use long-grain white rice instead.
Make Ahead: The gumbo can be made a few days in advance or frozen for up to a month.
Yield: Makes 8 one-cup servings, plus 8 servings to freeze
- 1 rabbit, cleaned (about 3 1/2 pounds)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil, plus 2 tablespoons to saute the mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon salt, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3 large yellow onions, chopped (5 cups)
- 4 ribs celery, cut into small dice (2 cups)
- 2 medium green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into small dice (2 cups)
- 1 cup sweet vermouth
- 2 quarts good-quality chicken stock or broth
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 7 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into slices (4 cups)
- Several drops hot pepper sauce to taste, such as Tabasco brand or Chipotle Tabasco (for a smoky flavor)
- 4 cups cooked wild or white rice or wild rice mix
- 1 bunch scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram or oregano, chopped, for garnish
- 1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted, for garnish (optional; see NOTE)
Cut the rabbit into pieces: Remove the loins and the fore and hind legs, the cut the carcass in half. Reserve the livers and kidneys for another use.
Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers. Season the rabbit pieces generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in two batches, add to the pot and sear on both sides for several minutes, until they are lightly browned. Transfer the pieces to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 cup of oil to the pot. Slowly whisk in the flour, then use a long, flat wooden spatula to scrape up any browned bits left on the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring constantly, to form a roux that is reddish-brown, like the color of mahogany. (Be careful when stirring; the hot roux can scald.)
Stir in the onions, celery and green peppers; cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, to soften them. Add the sweet vermouth, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, then add the stock or broth, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, the tablespoon of salt, the teaspoon of black pepper and the bay leaves. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the gumbo to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
Add the seared rabbit pieces and any accumulated juices to the pot, reserving the loin strips, making sure the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, skimming the surface occasionally to remove any foam or excess oil.
When the gumbo has cooked for almost 30 minutes, heat a medium nonstick skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the mushrooms and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until golden brown.
Transfer the mushrooms to the pot, stirring to incorporate. Cover and cook for 30 minutes; skim the surface occasionally as before. Turn off the heat.
Discard the bay leaves. Transfer the rabbit pieces to a large bowl. Season the gumbo to taste with hot pepper sauce and adjust seasoning as needed. Add the reserved loin strips to the gumbo; cover and let sit for at least 10 minutes so the loin strips will warm through.
Pull whatever meat you can from the rabbit pieces and use your fingers to shred it into bite-size pieces. Return the shredded meat to the pot.
Remove the loin pieces from the pot and cut them crosswise into bite-size medallions.
To serve, place a mound of cooked wild or white rice in the center of each large soup plate. Ladle a cup of gumbo around the rice. Divide the loin pieces among the plates. Garnish each plate with chopped scallions and marjoram or oregano, and, if desired, the toasted pecans.
NOTE: Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the skillet to keep them from burning.
From Real Entertaining columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
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