08 February 2012

Day 81: Silly Rabbit

We all have comfort foods. Sometimes its a nostalgia thing, and sometimes it's straight up goodness we're looking for, but either way, it's a combination of flavors that are reliable. As a home cook, I have a subset of comfort foods that are reliable in a slightly different way: they're easy to make. Obviously, I like the way they taste, too, but there are days where I just want to throw something on rice (actually, that's most days) or boil pasta and dump some sauce and cheese on it. It's the doing that puts me at ease.

After my maddening lamb failure, our next dish was lapine a la graine de moutarde (rabbit in whole-grain mustard sauce). We'd be making fresh pasta for it, a task I'd always wanted to attempt but shied away from because it seemed difficult.

It's not difficult. It's super easy. And it's exactly what I needed at that moment in time.

The dish as a whole was also easy. When I read or hear "sauce" in conjunction with a pasta dish, I imagine an old Italian grandmother stirring a slow-bubbling pot of red stuff for hours on end while her plumber son Mario is off saving princesses (apologies to people of Italian descent, but your biggest export to my generation of Americans came from Japan). This sauce was not that.

We slathered the rabbit in yellow and dijon mustard to marinate. We seared it off and braised it. Then we reduced the cooking liquid, added some cream and more mustard to our liking.

Oh, and the pasta. It's also one of those just-that-easy type of things. We made a well in some flour (we used half a cup each of semolina and AP), dropped in an egg and a pinch of salt and scrambled it. Then we started incorporating the flour and eventually kneaded the shit out of it -- it doubled as a decent stress reliever. Then we let it rest (like any other dough, the gluten needs to relax). The hardest part was the amount of water to use. We kneaded until it was smooth, not sticky (too wet) or crumbly (too dry).

We actually did the pasta dough the day prior and kept it wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. On cooking day, we rolled it into simple tagliatelle-like ribbons cut by hand. If I were a chef, I'd market them as hand-crafted artisan pasta and charge $20 for it, but for a single batch it's actually less fussy doing it that way. We then boiled it in salted water for a few minutes. I used my tongs to grab it, let the ribbons hang over the pot to drain the excess water, then dumped them into the mustard sauce to finish.

My chef-instructor had nothing negative to say about my execution of the dish.


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