A lot of swear words were spewed the second after taking a bite of this rabbit last night. "Son of a B%&#*! Holy Sh&@ on a stick, man!" I thought Mrs. Ney should have strutted around Homer Simpson-style, belching, "I am so smart! I am so smart!"
Explosion of French flavors here; food that tasted like the ground, the air, the trees and the attitude of Alsace. I'm just projecting, really. I've never been. But in our small understanding of French regional cuisine, this tasted like food designed to slide right in to the cloudy-cold dreariness of Alsace winters, bringing a pause and a smile in a season largely bereft of such things. At least that's what TV tells me. Those eastern French people seem to be a moody lot. I think that's why I'd like them.
And Mrs. Ney didn't have to chop up a bunny carcass that looks a little too close to the live animal.
Food: Rabbit loin, celery root purée and dandelion greens
Rabbit loins: $36 for three pairs from d'Artagnan (if you missed the February free shipping, shame. Deal of the century, there), seasoned with Trader Joe's flower salt & pepper, lemon thyme, with two sage leaves in the middle; wrapped in caul fat ($4/lb from Paulina!), seared over high heat in cast iron, thrown in a hot oven for 3 minutes. Used this recipe as a base to work off.
Sauce: shallot sautéed in olive oil, deglazed with (gruner veltliner) brandy; tarragon and lemon thyme and two tbsp whole grain dijon added, two cups rabbit stock reduced to less than one cup. Rabbity goodness!
Starch: (recipe from Saveur modified to be slightly less over-the-top dairy) celery root cooked in one cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup butter, rabbit stock. Puréed with immersion blender, potatoes milled into that; 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano, nutmeg and white pepper added.
Dandelion greens: blanched, sautéed in hot rabbit pan. Dandelion greens because bitter greens and rabbit are supposedly a thing. We love bitter greens but hate dandelion greens. These dandelion greens were less hate-able, even good in small amounts.
I don't even know what to say. Just that this food is the early front-runner for Best Meal of 2013. Perfect Stuff.
Served with two wines that turned into a "one for her and one for me," though one clearly stood out with the food.
Wine: 2009 Darting Pinot Meunier Trocken Germany Pfalz ($20 - Binny's) & 2011 Marcel Lapierre Morgon ($22 - Binny's)
Popped the pinot meunier after the Morgon took a backseat to the food in seriously backseaty ways.
And that proved to be a wise decision with the pinot meunier bringing a little heat to match up with the mustard and brandy in the food. It was tough not to think cherries and scotch when tasting the Darting after reading cherries and scotch in the tasting notes, but that's what it was along with a freakin' delicious funk floating around on the nose and at its core. Perfectly medium-bodied stuff with guts. We were most taken by its levels though. Something beautifully vertical about the end of the entry and the entirety of the mid-palate, bringing a great life and vitality to it. 2009's are sold out at Binny's. We just bought some 2010's and they'll be popping up right quick on this here blog. Just great stuff here. German 100% pinot meunier, you've got two new fans.
The Morgon (100% gamay) proved to be a divisive wine at the table. I loved its 12.5% alcohol and its silkiness. Tasted honest to me, loving its simple bright cherries, raspberries, flowers and herbs, all framed in a light body and leaving a delicate chocolate-cherry finish in my cheeks. Mrs. Ney found it too light and a touch flat with very little vertical bounciness. With the food, the Morgon just couldn't beat the pinot meunier.
Pairing: The Darting won the night in the realm of pairing deliciousness but the Morgon had a teeny-tiny place
It came down to finding an interplay and back-and-forth with the wine. No contest there. The mustard and brandy linked up beautifully with the Darting in some pretty great and original ways, taking the wine to a new place of goodness. Even gosh-darn interesting with the dandelion greens, amping up the scotch-soaked cherries in the wine. Same with the celery root purée, making everything more round and full. A sip of wine and then a bite of purée. a lil rabbit, a strand of dandelion greens accidentally getting in there was something quite spectacular. Unqualified success with the Darting.
The Morgon was a step too slow all night. I mostly liked its struggle. It tasted more like having an ingredient on the plate than anything heightened and accented in the traditional pairing realm, but it was a struggle nonetheless. Loved it by itself, especially after being open for three hours, but it just couldn't keep up with the food, flatlining at times with more than a few bite combinations.
But none of that mattered. Stunning rabbit goodness here. A meal we'll remember.
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