Ballotine of Rabbit with Herb Stuffing
Time requirement: It is a commitment. Preparation takes about an hour. Plus, another 1½ hour to cook. You must be near the kitchen the entire time the ballotine cooks. You are its prisoner. It is worthy of the effort. It is an impressive dish.
There are two steps to this dish. The first is to make the stuffing. The second is to stuff and cook the rabbit. The recipe breaks out these steps.
What you will need:
For the stuffing…
1 tablespoon walnut oil.
2 ½- 3 ounces of pancetta cut into strips.
2 – 2½ ounces of finely diced tender fennel.
1 small carrot finely diced, 1 – 1¼ ounce
1 small piece of celery finely diced, 1 – 1¼ ounce.
1 tablespoon chopped shallot.
1 tablespoon chopped parsley.
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves.
The leaves from a 6-7-inch marjoram sprig, chopped. (If unavailable, use oregano. Or for a different taste entirely, use rosemary.)
The rabbit liver chopped. Or use 1 chicken liver.
1 cup white wine.
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs.
For the rabbit…
The stuffing (above)
1 boneless rabbit. See note at the end of the recipe.
2 tablespoons walnut oil.
6-8 additional ounces of pancetta to wrap the rabbit in.
1 garlic clove.
½ cup white wine, plus more to add to the pan as the dish cooks.
To make the stuffing...
In a 10-inch fry pan, heat 1 tablespoons of the walnut oil and the pancetta strips. Cook over a moderate heat until the pancetta is crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan.
To the pan add the fennel, carrot, celery, shallot, and the herbs. Cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5-6 minutes; halfway through add the chopped liver. Regularly stir the contents of the pan while these ingredients cook.
After 5-6 minutes, add ½ cup of white wine. Raise the heat to high, evaporate the wine. Add another ½ cup white wine. Let it evaporate by half and the breadcrumbs. Stir all well and cook it just long enough that the breadcrumbs absorb all the moisture in the pan. Add the cooked pancetta to the stuffing. Spoon the stuffing onto a plate and place in the refrigerator to cool.
To prepare and cook the ballotine (the stuffed rabbit) ...
Place rabbit flat skin side down on a clean work surface. Lay the cold stuffing across it. Starting at the neck end, roll up the rabbit, Yes, this makes a short and fat roll, not long and thin roll. Wrap the rolled rabbit in the pancetta and tie with cotton twine. Tie it well, both vertically and horizontally.
Place 2 tablespoons walnut oil and the garlic clove in a 5-6-quart Dutch oven. Heat over a medium low heat. When garlic sizzles, raise the heat to medium high and add rabbit and brown on each side. Browning the ballotine might take as long as 8-10 minutes. While it browns, watch the garlic it should brown light and not burn. Remove if it begins to overcook.
When the meat is brown, add ½ cup white wine (and the garlic clove if you removed it), cover with cover slightly ajar. Lower the heat to low to maintain a simmer. The wine should just intermittently simmer. Cook 1¼ to 1½ hour. As the wine cooks it will reduce, as it does add a little more wine (or water or stock) to keep pan moist. Check in every 8 minutes while it cooks for 1¼ to 1½ hour. (I told you that you are its prisoner.) After 1 ¼ hour cooking, use a meat thermometer to test for doneness at 165 degrees F the ballotine is cooked.
Allow to rest ½ hour in the pan before slicing. Serve slices on warm plates with the pan sauce. It is divine.
Where do you get a boned rabbit? If you have a talented butcher, he or she may do it for you. Otherwise, you need to do it yourself. There are plenty of demonstration videos on YouTube. Either way keep the bones to make a stock. Simmer the bones in 2 quarts of water. When this has reduced by half, add another quart of water. When this has reduced by half, strain and reserve the stock. While the ballotine cooks, use the stock, instead of water, to add to the pan to keep it moist.