Run rabbit, run

Rabbit leg with cider and apples

Here I am in Normandie—you know what I mean—facing the infamous rabbit dish with cider and apples. In French that’s Cuisse de Lapin Vallée d’Auge en deux Cuissons. Chef warned us it’s probably the most challenging dish in Intermediate Cuisine.

Time will tell. It was definitely a crescendo cook with 6 pans on the hob at the end. Possibly the only thing to make it more manic would’ve been running around a field beforehand to catch the rabbit. It was great fun. 2 hours of absolute concentration. No respite. I loved it. Though there were a couple of moments where I lost track of time. Nevertheless I served on time.

Butchery up front. The legs were broken down into drumsticks and thighs. The drumsticks were french trimmed; dainty but easy enough. For a laugh chef showed us a french trimmed rack of rabbit. Very delicate rib bones. The pelvis and thigh bones were removed from the thighs and the meat rolled.

Slices of Braeburn apple were arranged in a fan over each rolled thigh, which were secured in cling film and dropped into water at 82C. Meanwhile the drumsticks were browned in oil then decanted. Into the oil went shallots, apple trimmings and mushrooms. The pan was deglazed with Calvados, the cider and water were added along with the drumsticks and a bouquet garni. Into the oven with a cartouche on top and the lid on.

Time to switch focus. Time to make the pasta. Blanched and refreshed spinach blitzed with egg yolks into a purée. Passed through a chinois with a little encouragement and promptly splashed up my pristine whites, clean on that day. FFS! Now I have to do a wash tonight to get my other jackets clean for tomorrow. The purée was chopped into 00 flour and salt, previously sieved, using the arched edge of a scraper. This is a neat technique to efficiently incorporate wet ingredients with any flour without risking overworking the dough early on and without getting dirty, sticky fingers. Chop! Chop! Chop! Into the fridge so the glutens can chillax.

Back to the rabbit. The liquor from the drumsticks was passed, then returned to the pan to reduce and glaze the drumsticks. Double cream added at the end. Serious yum! The cooked thighs were freed from their cling film jackets, gently laid in hot butter and continually basted to take on colour. The last thing I needed was the apple slices falling off in the hot pan. Careful! Careful! Then into foil to keep warm.

Roll the pasta, cut and dust ready for cooking.

Garniture. Mushroom slices arranged in a ring between folded baking parchment then cooked in cast iron pan with another hot pan on top. By the way, this is a great way to cook chicken skin without the oven. Apple diced precisely into 5mm cubes and into the thigh butter with sugar, caramelised, and deglazed with Calvados. Spinach into beurre noisette.

Pasta into boiling water. 1 minute. Out, dressed with olive oil.

Plate up. Phew.

Razor clams served in their shells with a parley crust

Chef also cooked Couteaux en Persillade in the demo session. I’ve never had razor clams before and they were delicious—meaty, sweet and succulent. Cooked like you would mussels, in butter, shallots, garlic and white wine. The cooking liquor was thickened using a Beurre Manié, a paste of softened butter and flour, to make a lovely creamy sauce. The tasty crust was made with butter, plenty of garlic, shallot, breadcrumbs and of course parsley.

Buy razor clams alive. They should be moving. When you touch them they will wiggle or retract. If they’re in their shells, run your finger down the opening to tickle them. Alternatively, sprinkle just a little salt over them. They should be packed in wet paper. If they’re sealed in a plastic bag they can suffocate. When you get home, transfer them to a bowl and cover with wet paper or a wet cloth. Keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to rock and roll. Cook them when they’re alive.