{Catching your dinner} German-style Wild Rabbit Stew with Spätzle

Sorry, I’ve been totally MIA lately. Super busy with work for a couple weeks!

I got home from shopping one day to find this staring at me.

Needless to say that I was startled and jumped about 5 feet in the air, but that feeling was soon replaced with excitement for what was in store for dinner.

Some people can’t understand how we could kill our own food (when the opportunity presents itself). Some  think its cruel and gross, but I happen to think that its better than buying it from the supermarket. I know where this animal came from, I know to a certain extent what it ate in the wild, and most importantly I know that it lived its life wild and happy out in the open. And I’m not going to lie, it is pretty gross to clean your first animal. I’ve done it many times, so I’m pretty used to it by now.

I wen’t through a kind of transformation the first time we killed an animal to eat. I was very upset about it and the life we took to feed ourselves. I felt selfish and I’m sure I even cried, and I wasn’t even the one who killed it. I learnt how to skin, gut and butcher it that day. Each stage looking closer and closer to what you would buy at the store. By the end of it I was excited about cooking and eating it. I had a different feeling for this food then any other food I’ve ever bought. Its kind of like the feeling you get when you cook something you’ve grown in your garden, but a bit different. I had a lot of respect for this animal, and all I wanted to do was show it respect when I cooked it. I wanted to make the perfect recipe that would highlight the meat and allow me to taste it. I took my time, I paid attention during the cooking process, and I put lots and lots of love into it. Dinner was amazingly delicious.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have a connection with the animal when you kill it to feed yourself, you respect it… or at least thats how it was for me. What better recipe than a hearty stew braised for hours? I loved this stew and all the bright flavours of lemon juice, wine, capers and sour cream. S wasn’t a fan of the capers and thought they were a bit too strong for the subtle flavour of the rabbit, and I have to agree with that in the end, no matter how much I love capers. I might leave them out next time and see how it is.

I served this on the side of some homemade spätzle, a German egg noodle/dumpling.

German-style Wild Rabbit Stew

Recipe from Hunter Angler Gerdener Cook (Hanks’ recipe for German Rabbit Stew)

2 cottontail rabbits, or 1 domestic rabbit, cut into serving pieces
(I had one wild rabbit so I also added about 12 oz of wild mixed mushrooms, sliced)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 onion, sliced root to tip
Zest of a lemon, cut into wide strips (white pith removed)
2 to 3 bay leaves (I didn’t add this)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup sour cream
White wine to taste, at least 2 tablespoons
Parsley for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Salt the rabbit pieces well and set aside for 10 minutes or so. Set a Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot over medium-high heat. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and brown well on all sides. You may need to do this in batches, so don’t crowd the pot and don’t rush things. Remove the rabbit pieces once they’re browned. This may take 15 minutes or so.

Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, then the sliced onion and cook until the edges just begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Cook, stirring often, until the flour turns golden, about 5 minutes.

Return the rabbit to the pot and add enough chicken stock to cover. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the lemon zest, bay leaves and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently until the rabbit wants to fall off the bone, which will take anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how old your rabbit was.

This is an optional step, but I prefer it: Turn off the heat, fish out the rabbit pieces and let the cool on a baking sheet. Pull all the meat off the bones and return the meat to the stew. I don’t like fiddly stews with bones in them, so I do this. You can leave everything on the bone if you want.

You can now store the stew for several days. Or you can serve it at once. Turn the heat to low just to make sure the stew is nice and hot. Do not let it simmer. Add the sour cream, capers and as much white wine as you want — you want the stew to be a bit zingy. Stir in a healthy amount of black pepper and garnish with parsley.

Homemade Spätzle Noodles

Apparently spätzle means little sparrow (correct me if I’m wrong). I have always loved this noodle and make them often from scratch. You can buy dried spätzle already prepared at some supermarkets. This recipe has been with me for a long time and I don’t remember where I got it from.

3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 – 2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
I like to add some chopped fresh herbs sometimes, such as chives, parsley, and thyme

Combine the eggs and milk in a large mixing bowl, and beat well with a wire whisk. Add the nutmeg and salt, and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Add the flour, using a whisk to mix well. Mix the batter until it is smooth and all the lumps have disappeared. Batter will be thick and gooey, similar in consistency to pancake batter. Stir in the minced herbs (if using), and set batter aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Bring a large, wide pot of salted water to a simmer. Fill a mixing bowl with cold water and set aside. Place about 1 cup of batter into a spätzle maker set over the pot, and press the batter through into the simmering water. (Alternatively, you may use a metal colander with large holes and a rubber spatula to press the spätzle through the holes – I use a single flat grater (not a box) with coarse holes and push the spätzle through that with a spatula.)

Simmer the dumplings until they rise to the surface of the water, then scoop them out and place them into a bowl filled with cold water to cool them. When all the spätzle are cooked and cooled, drain them well and set aside.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it has melted, add the drained spätzle and cook until the dumplings are heated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.