Saddle of rabbit pizza, a real winter delight.
It’s holiday time and the Athens Farmers Market is cold, the northwest wind is blowing, but the great late season items look awesome. This week I’ve decided to make a pizza using only items from farmers, cheesemakers and ranchers here at the market. I’ve got lots to choose from, including arugula, French breakfast radishes, sweet potatoes, daikon, carrots, potatoes, buffalo, pork, butternut, acorn and hubbard squash, honey, local kimchi, jams, Asian pears, turnips, beets, and hot peppers .
Ed Perkins, organic master of the fields.
First I visited Ed Perkins, owner of Sasafrass Farm. Ed’s a great guy and always has the best organic vegetables at the best prices. Today, I bought some small carrots and some sunchokes, or Jeruselem artichokes. These tubers (called sunchokes) are not artichokes at all but tubers from a flower that looks like the garden sunflower. First noted in 1605, Samuel de Champlain saw the Native Americans cultivating this plant on Cape Cod, and his crew rewarded the natives with diseases that decimemated the East Coast for years to come. On a happy note, they taste great. raw or roasted just until al dente. Most chefs I’ve encountered always overcook them into a mush they call a puree. Most country folk eat them raw with lemon, ranch dressing or with a nice beer. (Yeah!)
Pete Shew of Shew's Orchard.
Then I went to Shew’s Orchard for late season persimmons. Majorie and Pete Shew sell some spectacular fruit and cider along with the best damn steak I’ve ever tasted. The hachiya persimmons were perfect, meaning just this side of mush, but that’s when they are at their best. It’s like tasting apple-pear jam with strong cinnamon notes. The fruit just melts in your mouth.
The cheese came from Chris Chmiel, owner of Integration Acres, a stalwart in the local production of paw-paw products, cheese, jams, kimchi, pesto, black walnuts and did I mention cheese. (He was the driving force in making the fruit the official State fruit of Ohio!) I dream of Chris’s cheese, especially Griffin’s Dream. This cheese is made in the style of Saint Maure and is a little creamier than traditional chevre with hints of citrus and nuts. I love it because it won’t dominate a pizza with melting loads of fat or overpowering flavor. I use the citric brightness and smooth texture to enhance or compliment other heavy pizza flavors.
The rabbit saddle came from Harmony Hollow farms, where Rich Blazer has the best rabbit and pork for sale. The arugula is from Angie and Matt Starline at Starline Organics.
My winter foraging jackrabbit...I mean...jackpot! From top left: Griffin's Dream goat cheese, late season baby carrot, Jeruselem artichoke, arugula, persimmon, and saddle of Harmony Hollow rabbit.
2 loins of rabbit
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Using a sharp deboning, filet or meat knife, trim the saddle of rabbit of all the silverskin. You must be delicate in this trimming. It helps to start in the middle of the silverskin and work toward the edges each way.
After seasoning with salt and pepper, saute in a cast iron pan on medium high with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, turning frequently to sear the outside.
Once the outside of the loins are seared, turn the heat to medium and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes until medium rare. Please note, you will be putting these on a hot pizza and back into the oven to warm up, so cook them on the rarer side of medium rare. I don’t care what any cookbook says, overcooked rabbit is tough.
Jerusalem Artichoke Chips:
1 large tuber of Sunchoke or 2 or 3 smaller tubers
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
Wash the tubers well and pull off the “nubs” that are holding dirt or mud and the ones that will be hard to peel. Peel the tuber with a carrot peeler, then use a mandoline (I reccomend a Benrinner from Japan) to slice the tuber into thin chips. Do not cut too thin or they will discolor and disintegrate in the pan.
In the same pan in which you cooked the rabbit saddle, add 1 tablespoon of peanut oil and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Heat until almost smoking and place the tubers in the oil. Heat on hight for 3 to 4 minutes, turning frequently to make sure they aren’t sticking. When you see the first chip start to brown, turn the heat off and keep tossing the chips. Some may not brown at all, but it is best to undercook the chips as they will turn to mush instead of turning to a potato-chip texture. Drain on a paper towel.
7 small carrots, cut in half
2 cups water
Using the same pan and same oil, heat to high. Add the split carrots and cook in the oiled pan for 2 minutes. Add one cup of water and stir. Cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes. By this time, the water will have evaporated substantially. Check doneness with a fork. If there is any “give,” turn the heat off and reserve on a plate. Add a second cup of water and boil for another 3 to 5 minutes until the water has evaporated again. The carrots should give way to the prick of a fork, telling you they are done. Put them aside on a plate.
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Peel the persimmons and place in a bowl. Whisk together with the mustard.
Rabbit Pizza (Dang John, finally!):
1 dough ball from the Easy Dough Recipe
Preheat a pizza stone or an upturned cookie sheet in a 485 degree F. oven.
Form dough ball into a disc. Use a spatula to schmear on the persimmon/mustard sauce. Place the Jeruselem artichoke over the sauce.
Place the cheese on the pizza, then the carrots.
Place the pizza in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the crust has browned. While the pizza bakes, cut both loins of rabbit on the bias, resisting the urge to pop one (or all) in your mouth. When finished, place the pieces on the pizza and put back into the hot oven for 1 to 2 minutes to warm up. Take the pizza out, place the julienned arugula on top, and eat.