Sunday, January 19, 2014

Endive, Venison and Cheese Gratin

While out grocery shopping, we often like to pick up one or two items that we've never tried before. This time around, we chose Belgian endives, which has the texture of cabbage when cooked but are also pleasantly bitter. You won't find them at all grocery stores because they are still fairly "exotic" in the United States. Specialty stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods will most likely carry them, but I found these at a Target in Lincoln. If you get the chance to buy them, we hope you will give this recipe a try. It's our version of a French endive gratin.

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
- 1/2 pound of ground venison
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 Belgian endives
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1 1/2 cups of milk, heated
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 cup of Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided, plus extra for sprinkling
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 slices of prosciutto
- grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
- cooking spray or butter for greasing baking dish
-  1 teaspoon of fresh parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground venison and brown. Season with freshly ground black pepper and a light pinch of salt. Keep in mind all the salt that's already in the prosciutto and cheeses.Set aside.
2. Cut off woody bottoms of endives, then cut endives in half lengthwise.
3. Grease a baking dish with cooking spray or butter. 

Then top endives with some venison and sprinkle with some shredded Swiss or Gruyere. This may be a little tricky. 
Then wrap each with prosciutto and lay them in the baking dish in one layer. 

The prosciutto may want to rip when you wrap the endives. If you don't want to deal with the trouble, simply lay the endives in the baking dish, then layer with ground venison, cheese and then prosciutto. 
4. To make the cheese sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Then whisk in heated milk and allow mixture to cook and thicken, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and stir in 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and garlic powder.

Pour cheese sauce over endives in the baking dish. Then sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and some grated Parmesan cheese, to taste. 

5. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 25 minutes.
Then uncover and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded cheese. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F and cook uncovered for 10 more minutes, or until the cheese turns golden. 
Allow endives to cool a little before serving. They will be HOT. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the top and enjoy! 

This dish is heartier than it looks.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Coney Coddle

Post by Jen

I enjoy taking international dishes and turning them into something that can be cooked with wild game.  Sometimes it works very well and other times it fails to impress. But this idea, adding rabbit into a traditional Irish dish called Dublin Coddle, was magic! 

In Ireland, coddle is typically made with leftovers like potatoes, bacon, sausages and onions. Ingredients are layered in a casserole dish and then slowly braised in stock. It comes out of the oven all bubbly, hot and aromatic, and the stock becomes to die for as it takes on the awesome flavors of the bacon, potatoes and sausages. Coddle is aptly considered a comfort food and is popular during the winter months.

I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings movies. The use of rabbit in this coddle was inspired by The Two Towers, when Sam says to Gollum, "There's only one way to eat a brace of coneys!" Then Sam cooks up a delicious pot of rabbit stew, and laments on not having any potatoes. I have provided a clip for your enjoyment below. 


This scene has stayed with me since, and this dish is its end result. It was also the first time I learned that rabbits are also called coneys, which has become my new favorite word. (You must know that I'm quite proud of my clever-- at least I think so-- use of alliteration in the name I gave this dish-- C-c-c-coney C-c-c-coddle!) This dish is also made with rabbit stock that I made from rabbit bones, which has a lovely undomesticated taste. It looks a lot like chicken stock, but only sweeter and more "wild," if that makes any sense. If you've never made stock before, it's quite easy. You can use the same method below for making chicken stock, too.

Did you know that Coney Island in New York was named for its abundance of rabbits before it became a resort?

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
- 3 plump wild rabbits, or 1 large domesticated rabbit, cleaned
- 5 cups of water
- 3 celery sticks,cut up into thirds
- 1 carrot, chopped
- half an onion,halved
- 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon of whole black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 large leek, white and some green parts sliced, wash thoroughly
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 onion, sliced
- 3 sausages, halved lengthwise and then halved again across
- 1 pound of mini Yukon Gold potatoes, halved

You can choose to cut up your rabbit or keep it whole. We chose to cut it up to make it easier to shred later on. To butcher a rabbit, separate each leg from the body at the hips and shoulders. If it's a big rabbit, you can also cut across the back. 

The photo actually shows a wild rabbit and a domesticated rabbit. As you may have guessed, the wild rabbit is much smaller and has slightly darker meat.
1. To make rabbit stock, place rabbit(s) in a medium to large Dutch oven.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F when you get to step 4.
2. Then add water, celery, carrot, half an onion, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, whole black peppers and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until rabbit is tender enough to shred.

Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface of your broth.
3. After 30 minutes, remove the rabbit from the Dutch oven and pick off as much meat as you can. Then set the meat aside. Return rabbit bones to Dutch oven and simmer for another 45 minutes, covered.

Afterwards, strain out the broth into another container, discarding any solids. Set broth aside. 

4. In a skillet, cook bacon then remove. Drain off bacon grease, but leave 1 tablespoon behind. Then cook sausages in the same skillet until browned on all sides. Remove the sausages, then cook 1 sliced onion in the bacon grease for 7 minutes, or until translucent, stirring occassionally.

5. Next, layer a lidded casserole dish or the same Dutch oven like so: onion, bacon, sausages, leek, rabbit, thyme, garlic...

seasoning each layer with plenty of cracked black pepper.

Then finish off with a layer of potatoes, seasoning with a little more black pepper on top. Then pour in the rabbit stock. 

Cover tightly and bake in a 300 degrees F oven for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Adjust seasonings.
6. Ladle into individual bowls and serve with bread, or soda bread if you have. 

Enjoy! This dish is perfect for winter.
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