A while back I was reading a great post on Gunter Nation which included a recipe for a slow cooked rabbit ragu with Bill particularly recommending serving it alongside polenta. This suggestion gave me the perfect excuse to attempt an outrageous recipe from the Balthazar cookbook that friends brought me back from a trip to New York.
In short, their version of polenta is ludicrously decadent: it involves simmering the cornmeal in copious amounts of milk and cream and then finishing with a triumvirate of mascarpone, butter and parmesan so there can be no accusations of blandness. You then chill the mixture in the fridge, cut into slices and sauté before serving; I really recommend cooling those slices overnight because it’s hard to get a good crust if they’re not firm enough.
I’ve adapted the ragu recipe for my pressure cooker and also lightened the sauce somewhat by reducing the amount of tomatoes as without this the richness of the polenta might make the whole thing too overpowering. To further lighten the dish I borrowed a trick from a meal I had in San Lorenzo’s and finished the rabbit with an orange gremolata.
Be careful with this stuff though, add a small sprinkling when serving and allow people to top up at the table if they want because it has a very assertive flavour. Also, if some of the pith from the orange has managed to sneak its way into the bowl there may be an unpleasant bitterness when used in larger amounts.
For the Balthazar polenta
133ml chicken stock
133ml single cream
120g quick cook polenta
75g parmesan, grated
Grape seed oil
For the ragu
1 rabbit, front and hind legs only
2 cloves garlic, minced
75g carrot, minced
75g celery, minced
15g tomato paste
100ml white wine
250ml rabbit stock
1 bay leaf
For the orange gremolata
½ clove garlic, minced
15g parsley, finely chopped
15g orange rind
- Pour the milk, cream and chicken stock into a pot and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
- Pour in the polenta into the pot and stir regularly for 5-8 minutes until the polenta has thickened.
- Stir in the butter, mascarpone and parmesan until incorporated. The consistency of the polenta should be slightly sloppy, add more milk if required.
- Season to taste.
- Line a bread tin with parchment paper and spoon the polenta into it.
- Place in the fridge for a few hours but preferably overnight.
- For the ragu, place a frying pan over a high heat and melt the lard in it.
- Season the rabbit pieces and fry them in the pan for a few minutes on either side to brown.
- When browned, remove from the pan and place in a pressure cooker.
- Lower the heat in the pan and add the garlic, carrot and celery and sauté for around 5 minutes.
- Raise the heat and add the tomato paste and fry for 2-3 minutes until it turns a brick red colour.
- Deglaze with the wine and boil off some of the alcohol (around 5 minutes).
- Add the contents of the pan along with the rabbit stock and bay leaf to the pressure cooker.
- Bring the pressure cooker up to full pressure and cook for 30 minutes (depending on the age of the rabbit you may need to up this to 45 minutes).
- When done, leave to depressurize naturally.
- For the orange gremolata, mix the three ingredients together in a small bowl and reserve.
- To finish, remove the polenta from the fridge and take out of the bread tin and cut it into even slices.
- Strip the meat from the rabbit bones and mix the meat back into the sauce.
- Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat and when very hot pour in some grape seed oil and fry the polenta on each side until browned.
- Place a few slices of the polenta on two plates and spoon over the ragu.
- Sprinkle a very small amount of the gremolata over both dishes and serve.