|Country-style rice cazuela with rabbit, mushrooms and asparagus.|
I was definitely looking for something that wasn’t chicken. Or fish, for that matter. And, what should appear, but a package of cut-up rabbit in the meat section at the supermarket. Rabbit it is. Hopefully it will bring good luck for a new month, a new season.
Rabbit once was widely hunted in Spain, a nice addition to Sunday dinner or the paella pan. Nowadays it is farm-raised. Rabbit is a lean and tender meat, very tasty, not in the least gamey. I’m cooking the chunky pieces, not in paella, but in a cazuela de arroz, rice cooked in a cazuela, country style.
“Cazuela” refers to an earthenware cooking dish, usually wide and fairly shallow, as well as the food cooked in it. Experienced cooks use these clay vessels on a gas stove as well as in the oven. However, as more and more home cooks switch to induction cooking (me included), earthenware is used less and less. Use any wide sauté or braising pan or flat-bottomed wok for cazuela recipes.
This country-style cazuela is finished with a majado or picada, a mixture of fried garlic and almonds mashed up in a mortar (use your mini-food processor) with pieces of the rabbit liver (chicken liver can be substituted). If you do not have or prefer not to use the liver, use a slice of fried bread instead.
|Cultivated oyster mushrooms.|
If seasonal wild mushrooms are available, use them in this country dish. Otherwise, ordinary mushrooms such as oyster mushrooms or other cultivated ones can be used. Use any vegetable, foraged or cultivated, in place of the asparagus. (Tip: if you want the asparagus to keep its bright green color, instead of cooking it with the rice as directed in the recipe, blanch it in boiling water and add to the rice at the end of the cooking time.)
Use Spanish short-grain rice, the same type as for paella, preferably the Bomba variety. Bomba rice is forgiving, cooking “al dente” without becoming mushy as other varieties can do if not carefully timed. The rice in this cazuela is cooked “meloso,” or juicy, not dry like paella. You will need triple the quantity of liquid to the volume of rice: for 1 ½ cups rice, use 4½ cups stock. Save a half-cup of the liquid to mix with the ground almonds. Don’t stir the rice while it cooks, as stirring develops the starch, making gummy rice.
I’ve used half a rabbit, about 1 ¼ pounds, cut into two- to three-inch pieces. You don’t eat rabbit? Try the recipe substituting cut-up chicken.
|Rice is cooked meloso, somewhat juicy, rather than dry, like paella rice.|
|Country-style means you can eat the rabbit with your fingers!|
Country-Style Rice in Cazuela with Rabbit
Cazuela Campera de Arroz con Conejo
|Half a rabbit, cut in chunky pieces.|
1 ¼ pounds rabbit pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
Thyme, leaves and sprigs
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 rabbit or chicken liver
2 tablespoons parsley
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
4½ cups stock or water
1 cup chopped onion
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups sliced asparagus
¼ cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups short-grain rice
Lemon wedges to serve (optional)
Sprinkle the pieces of rabbit with salt, pepper and thyme leaves and allow them to come to room temperature.
|Sofrito with meat, onions, garlic, mushrooms|
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a cazuela/pan on medium heat. Fry two of the cloves of garlic, the liver cut in three pieces and the almonds until they are golden. Skim them out of the pan and place in a mortar or mini-processor.
Crush the peppercorns and saffron in a mortar and add to the mini-processor with the other ingredients. Blend to make a paste. Blend in ½ cup of the stock or water. Reserve this mixture.
Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Brown the pieces of rabbit on medium heat, 5 minutes. Add the chopped onion and continue sautéing 5 minutes. Chop the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and add to the pan.
Add the mushrooms and asparagus and sauté 5 minutes. Add the wine and stir to loosen any browned bits in the pan. Let the alcohol cook off, 1 minute, then add 4 cups of the stock. Bring the liquid to a boil. Taste and add salt if needed. Add sprigs of thyme. Stir in the rice, distributing it evenly.
|Add mashed almonds and liver when rice is nearly cooked.|
Cook the rice on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Stir the rice again and lower the heat. Cook, without stirring the rice again, until the rice is nearly tender, 10 minutes. Shake the pan to keep the rice from sticking on the bottom, but do not stir.
Add the mixture of liver-almonds-saffron, distributing it with as little stirring as possible. Continue cooking 3 minutes. Allow the rice to set 5 minutes before serving. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
More rabbit recipes:
More versions of rice in cazuela: