A little over a year and a half ago, I moved from New York City back to Minnesota -- the state where I was born (but only lived in until I was four years old). Upon my return, I had hoped to open my own restaurant, educating Midwesterners about good, local and creative food. I quickly came to realize that no educating was needed... except on my end. Taking stock of my skills and offerings, I decided to shift directions and combine my passions into one project. I've been making documentary films and cooking for the last six years, why not bring them together? Thus, The Perennial Plate was born.
For this new endeavor, I gave myself the challenge of creating a short documentary every week for a year about sustainable and adventurous food in Minnesota. The videos would be posted online for free, funding would come from the viewership and I would learn a lot about my home state. Forty-six episodes later, the project has been an inspiring and life changing experience. I've gained friends in the form of farmers, chefs, hunters and foragers and a new found appreciation for all of the work and love that goes into the food we eat.
I'll be heading through the Bay Area this summer to film, but before you get your own local video, I wanted to share a two-part episode that I made a couple weeks back in my home state. To view the whole series, visit theperennialplate.com
A warning to the squeamish viewer. These videos are about rabbits -- not just how cute they are, but how to raise them, how to kill them and how to eat them.
I visited Marshall Farm: a very small family operation that just started its first year of commercial rabbit farming. They are trying to popularize this climate-friendly protein option. As the only rabbit farm in Minnesota, most of their rabbits go to restaurants in the Twin Cities that feature local ingredients and charge a pretty penny.
Will rabbit break out of the fine dining mold and into the mainstream? With its white fur and Easter bunny association, maybe not. Because the rabbits aren't raised by the thousands, it also isn't the cheapest meat, and perhaps that's how it should stay -- as something special to be enjoyed from time to time.
WARNING: Includes graphic footage of a rabbit being slaughtered
At Marshall Farm we killed two bunnies. Scott Marshall butchered the first, and I did the second. From this bounty, I created a terrine. This elegant meatloaf is an easy crowd-pleaser, and a good way to make the most of every bit of the rabbit. Here's the recipe:
Rabbit Terrine Recipe
For this terrine I used rabbit as well as some pork fat, and some pork rillette that I had previously made. The rillette isn't necessary. I wouldn't make it just for this terrine, but if you want to give it a try, follow the example from Wrightfood.
Meat Grinder (eg KitchenAid with food grinder attachment)
Terrine mold or loaf pan
2 rabbits de-boned
3/4 lb pork fat (or 1/3 of the quantity of rabbit)
2 cups pork rillette
1 egg yolk
3 slices rye bread without crusts
1/2 cup of whole milk
2 rabbit livers (kidneys and hearts as well)
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme
1 Thai chili, seeds removed
2 tablespoons salt (to taste)
1 cup of dried cranberries
The addition of 2 tablespoons of a liqueur or fortified wine adds depth. I didn't have anything local, so I opted out
Canola oil to coat inside of terrine mold
Cut the rabbit and pork fat into pieces that will fit into your meat grinder. Combine the rabbit, pork, salt, and spice in a bowl. Mix and refrigerate for 2 hours (or more). Separately, put your meat grinder attachment in the freezer (for at least 1 hour).
Meanwhile, soak the bread in the milk and alcohol. Whisk the eggs until combined.
Remove the grinder from the freezer, and grind the salted-meat mixture as well as the soaked the bread. Add the whisked egg to the ground meat, lightly mix together, and then put the combined forcemeat through the grinder again.
Lightly poach or saute a spoonful of your forcemeat and taste for balanced seasoning. Adjust accordingly.
Lightly cover the inside of your terrine mold with canola oil, then press plastic wrap into the mold with plenty extra hanging over to cover the terrine at a later point.
Pour the cranberries into the bottom of the mold, distributing equally. Follow that with a layer of the forcemeat. If you are just using rabbit loins, place them in the center of the terrine and then fill the rest of the mold up with the remaining force meat. If you have the rillette: flatten the rillette onto plastic wrap, place the rabbit loins in the center and then roll the rillette around the loins, making as tight a cylinder as possible. Lay this tube (without the plastic) in the mold and cover with force meat, making sure some is on the sides as well. Use the excess plastic wrap to cover the forcemeat.
Cover the terrine with tinfoil, crimping at the edges to make a lid.
Fill a pan with hot water and set the mold in the water. Cook the terrine in the oven at 300 for an hour to an hour and a half or until the interior temperature reads 150 degrees.
Uncover the terrine and let sit out for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes create a press that can equally distribute weight onto the terrine (another terrine mold works best). Put the terrine in the fridge with weights on top and let it sit overnight.