I think half the fun of life is in embarking on adventures you’ve never done before, just to see what they would be like. Sometimes those are the scariest moments (like say, moving halfway across the world to a country where you knew nothing of the local language and all your family and friends are thousands of miles away? ha), but sometimes they are also the moments best suited for growth and development. Not just in technique/skills, but also a personal evolution. My passions in life now speak to me in ways I never knew they could before. Over time I have found this to be just as true in the kitchen.
Comfort is tasty, and the ritualism that comes with the cherished and familiar always works for a tasty meal. But that’s the thing. It’s safe, precisely because of its familiarity. The adrenaline from the rush of doing the unexpected isn’t present in making and eating comfort food – it is the very definition of the expected, and there is immense value in that. However, if I only ever did what was safe and comfortable, where would I be as a cook? As a person? Someone who only looks to past successes becomes flat and boring very quickly.
Excitement comes with the scary unknown. Growth happens during the scary unknown. Ok, I’m not talking horror film make-you-terrified-of-turning-your-lights-off-at-night scary (though that would be rather timely for the Halloween holiday), just that bit of trepidation that jumps your heart-rate a little giving you a burst of energy, that motivation to conquer the unknown head-on and with confidence. That place, the one you’re now thinking of but just can’t quite put your finger on that emotion even though you’ve felt it before too, yes that place is what I’m talking and am articulating quite poorly. I love that place, and actually strive to be there in the kitchen. I love not quite knowing what I’m doing, and just going with the moment and seeing what comes from the experience.
Rabbit is not a protein I have worked with before, so this dish was totally exploratory. In fact, before this ragù, I had only ever eaten it once, on our honeymoon a couple years ago. We were in this cozy place in Truro, enjoying a romantic meal of braised veal for my husband while I savoured the rabbit ragù & pappardelle. That night was my first, and until just a couple weeks ago, only time ever eating rabbit. Not because I didn’t enjoy it (I certainly did!), but because it was not a common meat to find where we lived. And then, one serendipitous moment battling the chaos that is Saturday afternoon shopping in a grocery store en Suisse, I saw rabbit and just knew I had to pick it up and cook something. I had no clue what yet, but I felt that something would come together when the moment needed to happen.
Spontaneous purchases of new foods usually go well for me, which helps my confidence and willingness to keep challenging myself with new dishes. Last year I impulsively purchased some quail and having never cooked it (or even eaten it!) before, I thought the results came out great. This dish was no exception. I wasn’t “driving blind” though – I did base my dish off of a recipe I found by the ever-illustrious Jamie Oliver. After a few changes (like serving them in crêpes and adding in cream), I had a ragù that we could see ourselves making time and again, another tasty conquest of a new food.
Crêpes don’t have to be limited to only dessert or breakfast dishes. If you walk in to any crêperie, you can order satisfying savory crêpes that make you wonder why this wasn’t comfort food when you were growing up (or maybe it was, in which case you were one lucky kid!). Ever since I figured out how to make gluten free crêpes, they have been a welcome alternative to pancakes in the morning. But for dinner? They are an even more welcome alternative to pasta. Especially for this ragù. A few more times, and I think this dish will cross over from the category of “new and unprecedented (at least in my kitchen)” to “classic comfort”. I love when that happens and I can see my repertoire of comfort foods growing and transforming. But it all starts with that first, maybe a little courageous, leap.
Makes about 4 generous servings if served in crêpes as shown. On top of pasta, you could probably stretch it to 6.
For the crêpes:
3/4 c. buckwheat flour
1/4 c. AP GF flour mix*
3 eggs, beaten
1.5 c. milk
3/4 stick butter, melted
For the ragù:
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
sprig rosemary, diced
a few leaves sage, minced
1 tbs. dried italian herbs
1 bay leaf
1 kg. rabbit meat, deboned and roughly chopped
2 tbs. AP GF flour (or reg. flour if you don’t need to be GF)
1 c. dry white wine
2 c. vegetable stock (maybe more if needed)
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 c. cream
1/3 c. grated gruyère cheese
1. Prepare the crêpe batter. Mix buckwheat and AP flour together and then whisk in the eggs one at a time. Gradually whisk in 1 c. milk until batter is smooth and free of lumps. Stir in 2 tbs. melted butter. Let stand for 2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, make the ragù. Heat a large pot with olive oil, and sauté onion, carrots, garlic and herbs until onions are softened. Add in the rabbit meat and the flour, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
3. Deglaze with white wine and add in stock to cover everything. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cover. Let cook until meat is tender, 90 min or so. If necessary add in more stock to keep things covered, and give it a stir every 20 min to check on it and let the aromas waft throughout your home making everyone hungry. When done, remove from heat and stir in cream and 1/2 c. grated gruyère cheese.
4. Reassess the crêpe batter, and add in more milk if needed (you probably will need about 1/2c. more).
5. Re-melt the rest of the butter, and swirl 1/4c. – 1/2c. at a time of crêpe batter in a pan on med-high heat brushed with melted butter. Use a spatula to release the crêpe from the pan after 30-60s when they are just starting to brown, and flip to fry on the other side about a minute until slightly browned.
6. Fill the crêpes with ragù and garnish with herbs and a little cheese if desired. Serve immediately while crêpes are still hot, just off the pan. Ragù reheats great the next day (if you happen to have leftovers).
*AP (All purpose) GF flour mix – it doesn’t really matter what mix you use, just use whatever gluten free flour mix (your own or packaged) you normally use in your home.