Rachel Brownlee is a health and nutrition coach who lives with her husband in North Asheville, where they raise chickens and vegetables on an acre plot. She calls herself an "anti-rice cake nutritionist," and works part time with a landscape company called "Dirty Hoe Landscaping." Even though Brownlee used to find the whole idea silly, she operates a blog called "Girl in an Apron." She tries to post a food entry daily, and she plans to someday compile her favorites into a book that conveys her passion. "I am food obsessed," she notes. "It's not just about what the food is, it's also about the experience for me; just being part of it and being excited about it — and hopefully getting other people excited about it."
What does Brownlee like to cook? All manner of things — including rabbit.
First, if any of you are still hanging onto remnants of your childhood affection for the Easter bunny, or the Velveteen Rabbit for that matter, please skip this article. Seriously. For the rest of you, it's time to fire up the grill.
I was going about my business buying a dozen eggs at the Saturday farmers market, when my friend came up behind me and said "Rachel, Stephen is selling whole rabbit." Rabbit. At first I hesitated … but why? I suppose it's because I have some sort of emotional attachment to them — the big soft ears, the cute little nose. How can I justify eating a cow 400 times its size without batting an eye?
I started thinking. Rabbits are closer to native food than most all other domesticated meat animals. They are lean. They reproduce efficiently, and with little effort. They have a light environmental footprint. Plus, they've got to taste good … rabbits are a food from the frontier, for goodness sake.
I decided to walk over and check out the scene. There was the rabbit, displayed over a bed of ice, not really looking much like the Easter Bunny at this stage in the game. I thought it over. Almost bought a whole chicken, before switching gears and going for the rabbit. I was uncomfortable with my uncomfortableness around this animal. I needed to dive in! Surely my ancestors did.
I decided to begin the process with a brine, followed by an herb-rubdown, followed by the heat of the grill, followed by continuous basting with garlic and herb butter.
I am much more comfortable around the subject of rabbit now. After defusing some of my initial fears, I was able to enjoy an incredibly nourishing, mouthwatering and sustainable food. I never in my whole life thought that I would be taking sides with Mr. McGregor and seeking out Peter Rabbit for dinner, but that storybook farmer was onto something.
Grilled Whole Rabbit
1 young 2-2.5 lb. whole rabbit, skinned and cleaned
1/4 cup sea salt
1/4 cup fresh, chopped rosemary
Sea salt and pepper for rub
2-3 T melted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
Fill a large bowl 3/4-full with water. Add enough salt to make the water "briny"— about a 1/4 cup. Place the rabbit in the bowl and allow to sit in fridge for a whole day or overnight.
Remove rabbit from the brine and rinse. Generously rub the rabbit with rosemary, salt and pepper.
Fire up the grill, placing charcoal to one side. When you can hold your hand for 3 to 5 seconds over grill rack, coals are ready. Place the rabbit on the grill, not directly over the pile of coals. Cover grill with lid, turning rabbit occasionally, until fully cooked, but not overcooked. (Meat thermometer should read at least 160-170 in thickest area). Baste with the butter as rabbit cooks. Remove from heat and place on a baking sheet.
*Read your children an alternative storybook this evening, maybe one about a cute little cow or perhaps The Three Little Pigs.
Brownlee serves her grilled rabbit with potato-leek puree and grilled carrots. For the full recipe, visit her blog at www.girlinanapron.blogspot.com
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