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I ate goat for lunch today.

Those from tropical cultures find this about as unusual as your basic American would find eating a burger from Five Guys. This particular goat came from a homey Filipino restaurant. Mixed with some of my roasted vegetables it was fatty, rich, meaty, and lip-smacking. The first goat I ever ate was a few years ago in a tiny Mexican restaurant.* It was just as delicious and I never forgot it.

Exotic food can be daunting, granted. The late food writer Laurie Colwin said she would never eat fish eyeballs, and I’m right with her. I’ll add to that the Filipino delicacy balut, a duck embryo eaten directly from the shell.** This is not a criticism of this traditional food, mind you; I just know what I can manage and what I can’t.

But I do want to push my luck as much as I can, not just because there is a world of magnificent food out there (and there is), and not just because sharing brings us all closer together (and like smiles, or music, food can do that), but because it’s important to pull the rug out from underneath ourselves sometimes.

(It’s also fascinating not just to see what people eat, but how they eat. I recently read about a native of Guam who happily munches right through baked chicken—bones and all. My Filipino friend Teresa loves picking at fish bones, slurping every tasty morsel from them, while her brother picks out the choicest pieces of cartilage to chew on. I’m a nibbler myself. Isn’t it reassuring to think that despite Louis Vuitton handbags and Tru-Green manicured lawns and eyebrow threading treatments that humans still, miraculously, maintain vestiges of our primitive selves? Could anyone plausibly argue that food doesn’t taste better when we get good and sticky-fingered with it? Sticky-faced?)

How much poorer I would be had I not found that little Mexican grocery store almost-restaurant, where the ladies sliced fresh limes behind the counter and grinned at this porcelain-white girl and her Japanese buddy licking our fingers over goat and tripa in homemade soft tacos. Or pulled over on the scrubby road just outside Gainesville, Florida to try spicy crocodile jerky. Or tasted Teresa’s mom’s wonderful monggo (traditional Filipino mung bean soup, complete with little shrimp heads). I love it; I love it all.

*’Restaurant’ might be pushing it, actually; it was in the back of a narrow little Mexican grocery store, and you had to go through the store to get there. The joint wasn’t much bigger than a box of Froot Loops, and I don’t even think it has a name. But they sure knew what they were doing.

**Man, if the goat didn’t drive my mom to the edge, that sure did.

 

 

 

 

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I love game. Let’s get that out of the way right up front, or this post won’t make any sense.* Elk, deer, alligator, goat, pheasant, moose, buffalo—love it all. Bring it.

It should be noted I did not grow up eating game. But I started reading pretty early, and was and still am a wild devotee of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. So from very early on, the notion of preparing and very much enjoying meals that included game has never struck me as anything but normal. When I had the opportunity to try game for the first time, the luscious Game Pie filled with rabbit, duck and venison at Colonial Williamsburg’s King’s Arms Tavern, sweet Jesus I hope they never stop making it, I went for it. Rich rewards.

I say all this because game freaks out a lot of people—at least many I know. I’m not entirely sure why, although I suspect Madison Avenue’s been whispering Glade Bali Bloom air-freshened propaganda into our ears, making us believe game like rabbit is for lesser humans.

And if I can be frank, and I can since it’s my blog, that thinking is awfully short-sighted. Unless those critics’ descendants were Inuit or from an island where there aren’t any miniature mammals, they probably ate rabbit. Which means they’re alive on this planet because of it, so they should please check their snooty at the door.**

Those I know who will admit to eating game will say they’ll eat it as long as it doesn’t taste ‘too gamey.’ That’s their prerogative, but for my money, the gaminess is exactly what’s good about it—that non-homogenized pungency, that flavor that just insists its way onto your taste buds.

I chose this recipe as a part of my cooking project, detailed here. It’s courtesy of Johnnie Walker, purveyor of hot sauces and jellies (Two Mile Creek Specialty Foods), and resident of Colorado. He says, “I visited with my mom and pop…they ate lots of rabbit as kids during the Depression. In fact, my pop says that he ate so much rabbit as a kid, every time a dog barks, he JUMPS!!”

The trick, in a beach town, is getting hold of a rabbit. The only guns we fire around here are Nerf Super Soakers, and I’m happy to challenge the local status quo about lots of things, but not about this.

I called a local specialty butcher, who ordered a rabbit for me from upstate. It was a fattened, pen-raised rabbit which cost as much as a semester at Cornell, so if you’re a hunter or know an obliging one and can get your hands on a wild rabbit, go that route. It will likely be even more flavorful and less fatty (read: less tender), but no worries. It should still work with this recipe, since it calls for baking in a sauce in a covered dish. This will help to hold in juices in this very simple, home-style meal.

Stuff I did:

-Bought my supermarket’s best candidate for a ‘bold beer mustard’: Inglehofer Stone Ground Mustard, with ‘FULL STRENGTH’ wrapped helpfully around the lid three times.

-Used carrots as my root vegetable. Seemed a natural with rabbit 🙂 And used thyme for the poultry seasoning.

-Didn’t use any booze, just chicken stock. Don’t let me stop you, though.

As good as this was after it came out of the oven, I must admit I liked it even better cold and sliced for lunch. Scrumptious.

I was surprised, even after the liberal dousing of habanero jelly and mustard, that the dish wasn’t ablaze; it was very flavorful, but mellow (at least to my taste). If it’s not enough heat for you, slap on more of the jelly or mustard as you eat. Scroll down for the habanero jelly website.

TMC (Two Mile Creek) Baked Rabbit with Mustard and Habanero Glaze

1 whole rabbit, cut up
A breath or two of white wine (like 4-6 oz.) or a nice light beer (like half a bottle), plus a tbsp or two of chicken broth to deglaze
1/3 c butter, softened
1/3 c TMC habanero hot pepper jelly with whiskey-infused apricots
3 tbsp mustard (a good call here would be a bold beer mustard)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp sweet paprika
Shortening, vegetable oil, bacon grease or duck fat for frying
Root vegetables like onions, leeks, carrots, baby red potatoes, etc. cut into chunks

Mix the butter, the jelly and the mustard together in a bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.

Heat enough oil in a frying pan (or better yet, an oven-friendly frying pan!) to brown the rabbit pieces.

Dredge the rabbit pieces in the flour mixture and brown in the hot oil. Cook on each side for 1-2 minutes—less time for less crisp pieces and longer for a nice crisp piece of rabbit. Set the browned pieces aside.

Deglaze the frying pan with the wine, beer or chicken broth, or a combo. Scrape all of the bits up with the extra deglazing liquid. Set aside.

In the bottom of a casserole dish or Dutch oven, arrange your vegetables. Salt and pepper lightly. Take the deglazed bits you saved and pour this over the vegetables. Now place the rabbit pieces on top of the vegetables. Spoon or brush the butter/jelly mixture over it.

Cover the dish and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the lid from the dish. You can flip the rabbit pieces at this time, if desired, and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes or until the rabbit is tender and around 160-165 degrees.

When you plate the rabbit and the vegetables, pour the bottom juices and drippings in a gravy bowl or such style container for extra sauce.

Serves 3-4 city folks or 1-2 hungry Logan County farmers. You can substitute chicken or pheasant or even farm-raised goose for the rabbit. Squirrel is good too…cooking time will be less, though.

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Johnnie Walker
Logan County, CO
USA

twomilecreekspecialtyfoods.com

Thanks, Johnnie!

*Like I have such a track record for plausibility. Now isn’t the time to start making guarantees.

**Here in New Jersey people won’t eat rabbit but they’ll eat pork roll***.

***To non-residents of NJ: Pork roll is a very popular breakfast and sandwich meat of questionable origins. Then the manufacturers add salt and nitrates.

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About a week ago at the farm I bought the last of the freshly-dug carrots. And instead of just snacking on them bunny-rabbit style as always, I got curious (as bunny rabbits are also wont to do) and wondered how they would taste grated up inside a carrot muffin. I’ve always been a nut for carrot cake,* with extra cream cheese frosting (priorities first), and of morning glories and basic carrot muffins, but have never tried making them with anything other than store bought carrots.

At the farm I pulled off most of the carrot tops and brought them out to the goats, who predictably acted like goats with them. If you ever find carrots with the tops still attached and don’t know an obliging goat, chop the tops off as soon as you get home. Keeping them on sucks the life out of the carrots and makes them limp and wibbly-wobbly.**

I found a recipe online that called for yogurt in the batter, which delivers tenderness, and no raisins. I love them, but didn’t want anything to distract from the flavor of the carrots. Baked up the muffins. Verdict: just as you’re imagining. The fresh carrots packed more intense flavor, noticeably different from those that were picked in Iowa and have been sitting on a shelf playing the harmonica for two weeks until purchase. And I was lucky to find small ones, which were really wonderfully sweet. No dryness or bitterness at all, which can often happen in store bought carrots. The muffins pulled apart like the softest ever angel food cake.

It’s so much easier to make the transition from summer to fall when it can taste as good as this.

*Course there was a pun intended.

**For all of you Dr. Who fans.

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