Pimientos – My New Found Love

While preparing food at the restaurant for an upcoming wedding at Hotel Echaurren, I noticed an unusual amount of both variety and quantity in the pimientos (peppers) we were using. This realization sparked my curiosity. Why do the Spaniards love pimientos so much? There were elongated green ones roasting in the oven and a red bell pepper on the charcoal grill – its outer layer charring away. I was cleaning a can full of preserved, roasted peppers, and to my left, a cook was chopping up some large, olive-cured ones. I also noticed the presence of peppers on all of the menus at Echaurren. The obsession with peppers was evident and I already see that it’s influencing me as well! For ‘family meal’, I often reach for pimientos and pair them with everything. I can see why, when Spain first discovered the Americas and brought peppers with him, they were quickly cultivated and the pepper culture grew.
With this obsession in mind, I started planning a recipe for dinner. First, when passing by the butcher shop, I noticed a display of rabbits through the window. I was amazed to see this product available, given the difficulty with acquiring this type of small game in Canada. This strengthened my resolve to start cooking with the peppers. I picked up the rabbit on the way home, along with some veal bones and pigs feet to add to the rabbit bones for the sauce. I then stopped off to pick up a jar of some preserved La Rioja roasted peppers, along with a couple fresh ones. When about to pay, I noticed a basket of dried figs and couldn’t resist. With these ingredients and a few, local pantry items, this was the final creation:
Braised Rabbit with Roasted Peppers and Figs
Makes 2 Portions
1
Whole rabbit
2 kg
Veal knuckle bones
1
Pig trotters
1
each of an onion, carrot and leek
2
Tomatoes
1
Sprig of thyme,
2 cups
Red wine
~50g
Curing mix – (100g salt and 45g sugar)
1
Long red pepper
1 jar
Roasted red peppers
1 cup
White wine
Foie Mousse
-most store bought pâtés will suffice
200g
Fattened duck liver
50g
Heavy cream
50g
Rabbit sauce
4
Gelatin sheets
Pickled Figs
10
Thinly sliced dried figs
2
Diced spring onions
3
Cloves of garlic
4
Sage leaves
1/2 cup
Water
1/2 cup
Ezcaray Mountain Honey
1/4 cup
A sweet extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup
Sherry vinegar
pinch
Salt
As with most meat recipes, the prep work begins with the most time-consuming task: the sauce. Start by separating the rabbit into the shoulders, legs, loin and ‘belly’ pieces. Chop up all the bones into small pieces with a cleaver and then start roasting in a tall pot with the pig trotters and veal bones. Once the bones are well roasted and a golden brown, add the roughly-chopped onion, carrot and leek. Brown some more and then add 2 cups of red wine and a diced tomato. Reduce the wine mixture and then fill the pot with water until barely covering the bones. Bring to a boil and remove impurities/fat by skimming the top while the mixture cooks. Simmer for up to 6 hours. If you have any herbs and other aromatics nearby, throw some in!
While the stock is simmering, season the legs and shoulders with the curing mix (45g of mix for 1kg of meat) and set aside. Lightly salt and pepper the loin and place it onto the flattened-out belly. Roll-up tightly and tie with butchers twine. For extra flavor, add a few leaves of sage when rolling.
Then go take a nap for your siesta.
After the stock has been simmering for about 5 hours, start preparing the other ingredients. Begin by searing the rabbit pieces you prepared earlier until golden brown. Add a few cloves of garlic, herbs, white wine, stock from the pot on the stove and olive oil, until just covering the rabbit. Simmer slowly. The trick is to remove the loin when it’s just ready: about 65 degrees Celsius in the middle. Set it aside to rest (removing twine and portion once its cool). Then, continue to slowly cook the legs and shoulders for about and hour more, or until the pieces have no resistance when tested with a skewer. Remove, let slightly cool and pull apart with a fork, ‘shredding’ the meat. Add and mix the following into the shredded rabbit mixture: very finely diced spring onions, some foie mousse and a few spoonfuls of the braising liquid to achieve a moist, well-flavored mixture. Season with salt to taste. For a heightened flavor if you desire, quickly add sauteed, diced liver and rabbit’s heart. Spoon the mixture into a terrine mold or ‘rollo’, to set in the desired shape. Any leftover mixture makes a great snack on a slice of fresh bread.
Prepare the figs by bringing the honey and garlic to a boil and adding the water and vinegar. Reduce until achieving the desired sauce consistency. Add herbs and olive oil, and pour over the sliced figs. Let cool.
Meanwhile, fire-char a bell pepper on the grill. Place it in a bowl and cover it with a lid to finish steaming. Remove skin and seeds, and cut or tear flesh into desired shapes. Reserve any leftover scraps for the sauce.
Begin to finish the sauce. Caramelize some diced onions and garlic. Add the rest of the roasted pepper and some chopped roasted peppers from the jar. Lightly saute, then add the strained rabbit stock. Reduce this mixture until reaching desired sauce consistency and pass through a fine strainer.
 
To finish the dish, slowly reheat the rabbit loin with the reserved cut peppers in the pepper sauce. Plate with a slice of the rabbit and foie terrine/rollo, and some of the pickled figs.
Text: Miles Pundsack-Poe, participant in 2012 ICEX Young Chefs Culinary Scholarship in Spain.

Photos: Miles Pundasack-Poe, ICEX.

Restaurants: Echaurren (Ezcaray, La Rioja), from March 14 – June 14 and Nerua (Bilbao), from June 14 – September 14.

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