Guild & Company’s cocktail manager Michael Buonocore suggests serving this dish with the restaurant’s Applejack Rabbit cocktail, which combines Flag Hill Farm Apple Brandy with Grade B Vermont maple syrup and a splash of fresh orange and lemon juice. “Drinks with acidity, such as the Applejack Rabbit, pair well with food. The brandy and fresh citrus complement the gaminess of the rabbit with a refreshing brightness, while the maple syrup adds texture and an appropriate sweet accent. For once, apples and oranges do make sense together.”
For the cure:
- 4 rabbit legs
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground juniper berries
For the braise:
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 small carrots, cut into a large dice
- 4 stalks celery, cut into a large dice
- 1 medium onion, cut into a large dice
- 1 bunch fresh thyme stems, leaves removed and reserved
- 1 cup apple brandy
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
For the jus:
- Reserved braising liquid
- 2 medium shallots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Reserved thyme leaves, finely chopped
For the purée:
- 4 medium parsnips, peeled, cored and cut into a large dice
- ¼ pound unsalted butter
- ½ cup crème fraîche
For the salad:
- 1 medium watermelon radish, julienned
- 1 medium apple, julienned
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon apple-cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, cut into an extrafine chiffonade
- 1 pinch sea salt
Cure the rabbit: Combine the salt, fennel, pepper and juniper in a small bowl; rub onto the rabbit legs. Place in a casserole, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours.
Overnight is best.
Braise the rabbit: Preheat oven to 325°.
Remove the rabbit from the cure, brush off any remaining seasoning and pat dry. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed stainless-steel sauté pan; sear the rabbit evenly on all sides until dark golden brown. Remove to a plate.
Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan; cook until the vegetables are golden brown and caramelized. Add the thyme stems to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Carefully deglaze the pan with the brandy. Cook until the brandy is reduced by three quarters. Add the chicken stock, salt and rabbit legs to the pan. Bring to a boil; carefully transfer everything to a casserole dish. If you can use the same pan for this whole process, do. The legs should be covered by two thirds with braising liquid. If you do not have enough braising liquid, add chicken stock. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and braise for 1½ hours. Carefully remove the rabbit from the casserole and strain the liquid into a large container. Place the rabbit legs back into the casserole dish and cover with the strained braising liquid. Refrigerate overnight.
While the rabbit cools, wrap the shallot halves in foil and roast until very tender, about 45 minutes. Cool the shallots and cut each half into 2 equal pieces. Wrap in foil and refrigerate.
Finish dish: Preheat oven to 350°.
Remove the cooled rabbit legs from the braising liquid. Place the braising liquid in a saucepan and simmer gently over medium heat until reduced by three quarters.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil; cook the parsnips until tender. Drain and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the parsnips with the butter and crème fraiche; pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. This will give you an ultra-smooth purée.
In another medium bowl, combine the salad ingredients and toss gently to combine.
Place the rabbit legs, reduced braising liquid, roasted shallots and thyme leaves in a casserole dish; heat in the oven until warmed through. When ready to serve, crisp the tops of the rabbit legs under the broiler.
Spoon the parsnip purée onto heated plates. Place 1 rabbit leg and 1 quartered shallot on top of the purée. Divide the jus among each plate and top with the radish and apple salad. Serve immediately.