Sunday, June 8, 2008

How to cook a bunny and how to crack a coconut (6/5/08)

This is exactly what it says it is, and since i know there is at least one of you reading this thing that has a pet out of the animal I am describing as a preparation to eat below, let me give the culinary equivalent of a SPOILER ALERT (or maybe a spoiled appetite alert) and suggest that those who don't eat meat skip down to how to crack a coconut. Let me also say that if you have a rabbit, or think they're oh so cute, i'm not the type to eat your pets: I don't eat things once they're named by people. But I make no mistake about it: naming is a human act. If it ain't named with a people name, then I name it meat, and call it fair game (I challenge any of you to count the number of [bad] puns in these blogs lately).

1. How to cook a bunny. Or, hey, I just cooked rabbit for the first time and it turned out really well. If you're ever feeling adventurous and/or have access to a rabbit that's been skinned and gutted and cut into six to eight pieces (and preferably has been living a pretty good bunny life to that point, which will probably the case since the only sources for bunny to eat will either be shi-shi organic places or small farms or your hillbilly neighbor in east appalachia, all of which, in my mind, are about equal in terms of quality and ethicality, although the hillbilly will be fresher and so probably the best).

First, you'll need to get yourself a bunny, as previously mentioned, about 2 1/2 pounds total, cut into 6-8 pieces. If it isn't gutted and skinned, have fun with all that. If you really aren't into eating rabbit, a 3 1/2 pound chicken cut up would work, too.

here's what else:
About 6 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. waxy potatoes (not bakers), peeled and cut into one inch cubes (a variation is to cut this down to 1/2 lb. spuds and half pound baby turnips, which is what i did. sweetness of the turnips pairs great with the rabbit and pepper)
1 red onion or I used three small spring onions, which are great this time of year
2-3 bell peppers, at least one red and one green and the last either orange or yellow
2 good sized tomatoes chopped up
maybe a cup of sicilian green olives or whatever decently sized green or black olives you can find
maybe a quarter cup of capers, either brined or in salt, with the salt rinsed off
2 stalks celery sliced thin
4-5 small cloves of garlic, or 3 medium-large cloves of garlic, minced
some springs of thyme (maybe 3 or 4)
1/4 c. either apple cider vinegar, dry white whine, or a full-bodied white wine like Riesling, depending on how sweet or acidic you want it, and what kind of flavor you prefer
maybe 1/2 c. water total

Ok, now we're ready to get started. First things first: get a good sized cast iron something with a lid on it, the heavier the better. I used a six and a half quart enameled cast iron stock pot but i'm a gangsta and we can't all garnish our goldschlager with wads of euros. Dump in maybe 4 T. of olive oil and get it good and hot, until it starts to smoke. Salt and pepper your rabbit in the meantime then, brown in it in the super hot oil, maybe three or four minutes per side (get it and good and brown, which takes patience).

Once the rabbit's brown take it out, turn down the heat to about medium, and add the last 2 T. of olive oil. Then add the onions and saute them til soft. Once they're soft, maybe four, five minutes, dump in all your solid ingredients, which is to say all ingredients but the last two, and stir stir stir to blend. After another maybe five minutes, once the flavors meld a bit, deglaze with either vinegar or wine, scrape the brown bits up, then add the water. From this point you want to jack the heat until the mixture boils, adding water as needed to make a stew (to cover all the rabbit parts and vegetables until they're submerged), then cut the heat to a simmer, cover, and let sit for as long as you can stand it: at least 45 minutes but up to an hour and a half. Check periodically to stir and make sure you don't need to add water to keep everything at least mostly submerged. It's done when the potatoes and/or turnips are done, so give a taste here and there and see what you like.

Dish it all out with some crusty bread and wine and, man, that's good eatin.

***This recipe is adapted from the following one from Bon Appetit magazine.

I made some changes, as i think spring onions and turnips and white wine work better, but it's up to you.

2. How to crack a coconut: I recently (April) made a cake, which i don't normally do, for olivia's birthday. It was fresh coconut with clove and lime in the mascarpone frosting. I'd never worked with fresh coconut, but the trinis in my neighborhood at the local grocery helped me out when i looked lost buying one.

First, when you pick a coconut to use, get a heavy one. The more juice swishing around in it the better. Once you've got the nut home, and this is the real secret here, the thing you don't hear everywhere, throw it in a 350 degree oven for maybe ten, fifteen minutes. It'll get warm.

meanwhile, get your tools: a hammer and a flat head screwdriver work best. Once the coconut comes out the oven find the holes that look like the fingerholes on a bowling ball, and hammer the screwdriver into each of them. Drain the juice out into a bowl and use for other stuff like sexy tropicale cocktails. Stage two of the tool section is the really fun part: rest the screwdriver on the middle part, the equator of the nut, and then start whacking, as Mr. Anderson from beavis and butthead would say. You want it to crack in two, but it my case it cracked into all over the fucking places in about seven jagged pieces, hairy brown bark winging into the cat littler box, gone for human consumption.

Once you've salvaged the pieces off the floor and gathered them all together, you're ready for the next phase, which i call super annoying. The first stage of this section involves wedging the white flesh away from the shell, which will really start to resemble a nut casing, like a walnut shell, in hardness by now (this is why you cook it first). Once you've wedged all this flesh away, open a beer or smoke a bowl or do whatever, because you deserve it even though you're not even to the worst part: grating.

Welcome to the worst part! I hope you're high and/or drunk! Grab a box grater or a zester (i used a microplane which worked relatively well, or as well as i guess you can expect for this operation), then grab a hunk of flesh (RESIST the urge to take huge bites of this or to lick it like a deer on a salt block) and start grating. And grating. And grating some more. You get an ENORMOUS fucking yield from a coconut in terms of shredded flesh (I bought two and i barely used a whole one for the entire cake, and this takes into account the fact that i did not resist the urge to take giant herbivorous dinosaur bites from the hunks of the creamy white alluring milky sweet crunchy holy shit fresh coconut tastes good), so that's good news.

But you've still gotta wonder, Why go through all this when you can buy it out of the bag? If you have to ask that, you've never eaten coconut fresh off the bark, or eaten something with freshly grated coconut baked or cooked or swirled or whatever into it. It is swear out loud good. Not something I'd do every day, but something I'm glad I did nonetheless.

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