Saturday, April 23, 2011

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Rabbit à l’Epicurienne, an Easter Treat

We've mentioned Agnes B. Marshall before. She's the Victorian Alton Brown, the one who was writing about making and using ice cream cones almost two decades before their supposed invention at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and suggested using liquid oxygen in 1901 to make ice cream at the table for the amusement of dinner guests.

As Easter creeps up on us, my thoughts wandered back to Mrs. Marshall while I considered what sort of rabbit I'd like to prepare for Sunday dinner. I'd thought about a Spanish preparation with olives and chorizo; simple pan-fried rabbit with a thyme-infused cream sauce; and even a rabbit mole. In the end, I decided going out for dim sum held more appeal than prepping bunnies for the table. With the task of actually cooking a coney out of the way, I could afford to let my musings get more complicated.

Think of them as bacon stitches
In her recipe Rabbit à l’Epicurienne, Mrs Marshall calls for larding a tender rabbit, an old technique that entailed cutting fatty bacon (or, more often, fat) into small planks called lardons, threading them through a wicked-looking large-bore needle, then inserting them in the surface of lean meats. As the meat roasted, the fat would melt, simultaneously basting and flavoring the roast. With a larding needle, it's tedious, but not hard. Without one, it's a pain in the ass.

From her massive 1891 cookery tome Mrs. A.B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes, here's Agnes B. Marshall’s recipe for Rabbit à l’Epicurienne
Rabbit à l’Epicurienne

Take a nice tender rabbit, skinned and cleansed, leaving the ears and tail on, remove the liver, take the thin skin from the fillets and cut off the bottom part of the leg to the first joint, then stuff the rabbit with a farce as below and truss it; lard all over the back and legs with finely-cut lardoons of fat bacon, trim these evenly with a pair of scissors, and brush the rabbit over with warm dripping; cover it with a well-greased piece of kitchen paper and put it in a baking-tin and bake, or if liked roast it for forty to fifty minutes, keep it well basted with the fat, and when done take it up on a flat dish; remove the trussing strings and arrange hatchet skewers in their stead, then place the rabbit on a crouton of fried bread on the dish it is to be served, and pour round the sauce as below, and at each end garnish with Saratoga potatoes [homemade potato chips or crisps]; brush the rabbit over with a little thin warm glaze, and serve at once for a remove for dinner or luncheon.

Farce for Rabbit à l’Epicurienne — Put the liver of the rabbit into a stewpan with enough cold water to cover, bring to a boil, then strain and rub through a fine wire sieve; mix it with two ounces of finely-chopped beef suet, a dessertspoonful of finely-chopped parsley, one chopped eschalot, a saltspoonful of coralline pepper, two whole raw eggs, three ounces of Chestnut crumbs…and one tablespoon of fresh mushrooms chopped fine; when well mixed together, use.

Sauce for Rabbit à l’Epicurienne — Put into a stewpan one ounce of butter, two peeled and sliced onions, a saltspoonful of Marshall’s Coralline Pepper, ditto of salt; fry it for fifteen or twenty minutes, then mix with one ounce of Marshall’s Crème de Riz, a teaspoonful of Liebig Company’s Extract of Meat, the strained juice of a lemon, two sliced tomatoes, half a pint of water, a bunch of herbs and a few drops of carmine; stir on the fire till the mixture boils, summer for half an hour, remove the herbs and rub the contents of the stewpan through a tammy, then use after rewarming in the bain-marie.

Happy Easter!

A.B.Marshall (1891) Mrs. A. B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes. Marshall’s School of Cookery, London.


Lynne said...

Matthew, great post. How interesting to read a recipe like this written in the late 1800's. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your dim sum!

Benito said...

I've never tried it, but I've heard about a technique of cutting salt pork into square-cut nails and then freezing them. You pierce the rabbit or venison or other lean meat with a skewer, then pull a "nail" from the freezer and shove it down the hole.

Also, I've seen old game cookbooks that call a larding needle a "barding" needle. I'm pretty sure larding is the proper term, but if you're searching on Google for old recipes it helps to use both.

Matthew Rowley said...

Lynne ~ Thanks. If you can ever track down a copy of the book itself, spend some time with it. Marshall shills a lot of her own products, but it's so clearly a product from a different era that you can feel, when you run fingers over the pages, the texture of each individual letter, an effect we just don't get with modern printing.

Benito ~ You're right: barding and larding needles are the same thing. A friend of mine sent me a tweet that she has one that belonged to Julia Child. Mine has no such provenance (but Fante's still carries them for those who want their own: Nice technique for freezing fat nails. I hadn't come across that before.