"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer



Shhh. Be vewy, vewy quiet.

Well, truth be told, I didn't kill da wabbit, but I sure did cook his ass...er, cottontail...tails. I've always wanted to make rabbit stew to serve with some quality French red wine, and I had chosen this weekend to make my fantasy a reality. I don't have much of a dining room, at all really, but as long as there's enough room to stand around my kitchen island, we can make a dinner party happen.

Friday night Tina and I picked up Peter and Mopsy from Paulina Meat Market ("Bunny killer's here!"), and then we got their trimmings from Family Fruit Market in Six Corners. Carrots, potatoes, as well as the holy trinity of onion, bell peppers, and celery, and several different kinds of wild and domestic mushrooms.

After a ride in the morning up to Highland Park with the team - there was no way I could squander yet another of the seemingly endless September sunny days we are having this late November - I sat on the stoop with a Refresco glass bottle Coke and smiled as Jack fooled around before getting down to business.

Jack and coke:

First, I had to peel and precook the potatoes. The recipe calls for a 12 to 24 hour simmer, I only had time for five. Then, it was time to chop the veggies and make the stock.

The Paulina butchers had quartered each of the rabbits, setting aside the visera, backbones, and liver in a separate wrapper. Reserving the liver for now, the backbone and other material went into my small pot, along with a red onion, two stalks of celery, carrot, and a liberal amount of salt and pepper.

While this simmered I turned to the rabbits. As it was my first time doing this, when I unwrapped their two packages I fully expected them to be deboned.

Not so. Just a couple of minutes trying to do that to raw meat first had me wondering if rabbit stew traditionally was served bone-in, and then washing my hands and turning to youtube, where I found this helpful demonstration:

Be sure to skip ahead to about 2.15 if you want to miss the guts coming out, and to 2.45 if you don't want to see the cute little rabbit turd on the cutting board.

Long story short, this wry Brit chef told me I needed to brown it first, and then the bones would come out quite cleanly. Thankfully Paulina Meat Market had taken care of the guts (and presumably the cute little turds) so soon I was happilyy browning away, nearly passing out from the extremely rich aroma of the meat searing in a large amount of butter.

Done, I set the meat aside to cool, and retrieved my trusty stock pot. I've made several good soups in this pot, including a beer and cheese, tomato basil, and most recently a butternut squash, with black beans and chorizo. I think even one St. Paddy's day I made some corned beef in there.

Into the loosening olive oil went, in order: onion, the julienne-cut (not bad for the first time, either!) celery, peppers and carrots, lots of garlic, tomato, and almost a full bottle of cheap white wine. More pricey viogner was called for. Right. After that came to a boil, I dropped the flame to let it reduce, and got on over to Tina's for some herbs.

Tina was in the middle of getting some broccoli from her garden, in order to make a souffle. Outside I snipped a big handful of parsley, and from behind her kitchen table I snagged some rosemary and thyme.

Back at the apartment I walked into a wondrous aroma: the rabbit stock, the softening veggies, and the cooling, golden meat just waiting to be taken off of the bone.

With the deboning mission accomplished, the meat, livers, the stock, herbs, and potatoes went into the pot, then it was time to make myself presentable and then wait for the arrival of guests while I finished the pear and Gorgonzola salad with the pecans I'd candied earlier.

Rick, a great friend living in Madison, Wisconsin arrived first, bearing must-haves for any menu featuring French provincial cuisine:

Rob's baked brie was decorated perfectly for the occasion:

Tina's souffle didn't exactly rise, but it certainly rose to the occasion, with it's cheesy, creamy, veggie goodness, the perfect side for any French-inspired menu:

Of course, the bachelor doesn't have enough bowls and spoons for his stew party, but does have two of his own cheese boards. Go figure. So many thanks for Susan, Cari, and Scott for the extra utensils and bowls, as well as more cheese and noshes.

Brian and Jamie brought two excellent bottles - a Cotes Du Rhone and a knock out Alsace Riesling.

And when Greg, Peter, Erik and Tracy arrived (with a bottle of Booker's 130 proof bourbon, I might add) it was officially a party:

Oh, and creampuffs and brownies for dessert! Rick attempted both at once:

And as I drank more, the disco jacket had to make an appearance:

It was an unqualified success. Thanks for coming, each of you. As I said in my toast, what good is a meal without good friends with whom to enjoy it?

Let's do it again soon.

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