Saturday, March 30, 2013

HARE-Y HOTSPOTS: Where To Indulge In Rabbit This Easter

Whether supping out or staying in, Luxe File Chicago’s got your fix for the perfect “other Easter” dish: rabbit. Known for its sweet, mild flavor, this scrumptious herbivore offers a tasty alternative to the classic holiday meal.

Here, a sampling of five outstanding Chicago restos whose well-executed, hare-apparent offerings you are sure to savor well after Easter is over. Peter Cottontail, you've been warned.

Billy Sunday: Like a big, blue Snuggie, the Jean Banchet Award-winning Matthias Merges offers up one of the city’s best, and most old-fashioned, options – a braised rabbit pot pie (below), stuffed with fresh fixings like carrots, celery, onions, and peas and potatoes in a rabbit gravy and topped with a melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk biscuit crust. Includes a side of roasted Cream of Wheat with mustard greens, tomatoes, and Pecorino Romano. $18. 3143 W. Logan Boulevard, 773-661-2485.

Filini Bar & Restaurant: Newly-minted chef extraordinaire, William Johnson, features a four-course prix fixe menu that spotlights rabbit ragù risotto with green olives and Grana Padano. $45 per person. 221 N. Columbus Drive, 312-477-0234.

Mercat a la Planxa: Craving Catalan cuisine? Head to Iron Chef Jose Garces’ tapas hotspot for a 3-course brunch, featuring Conill Coca, a braised rabbit flatbread with mascarpone béchamel, arugula, orange and hazelnut, and unlimited carving and dessert stations. $35 per person. After 5:00 p.m., tuck into Arroz a la Cazuela, a saffron scented broth featuring tender rabbit, Maine lobster, chicken, chorizo, shaved artichoke salad, and piquillo aioli, on the restaurant’s regular dinner menu. $14. 638 S. Michigan Avenue, 312-765-0524.

Moto: Chicago’s hometown hero, Homaro Cantu, flips this comfort food-style dish onto its furry head with Allium 2.0, one course on the restaurant’s 13-course Nightly Tasting Menu. Featuring rabbit roulade (rabbit farce and loin inlay wrapped in rabbit belly) and served with five-onion jam, pickled pearl onions, onion and garlic chips, baby leeks, confit green garlic, and onion ice cream. $175 per person. 945 W. Fulton Marketing, 312-491-0058.

Nellcôte: Executive Chef Jared Van Camp offers a creative take on an old Francophile favorite. Smoked bacon-wrapped rabbit loin and sausage served with braised red cabbage, housemade apple mostarda, and shallot-garlic rabbit jus. $13. 833 W. Randolph Street, 312-432-0500.

Prefer to skip the reservation and celebrate at home with close friends and family? Here’s one of our favorite rabbit recipes by chef/owner Chris Pandel of Balena and The Bristol. His secret behind this elegant and flavorful dish? Use locally-sourced meats and farm-fresh vegetables.

Rabbit Liver and Kidney Lyonnaise with Poached Egg and Frisée Lettuce
1 serving

For the Frisée Salad:
3 heads clipped frisée
1 tsp. minced shallots
12 rosemary croutons
1 tbsp. chive batons
½ oz. sherry vinegar

For the Rabbit Liver and Kidney Lyonnaise:
1 tbsp. butter
4 rabbit livers, cleaned and dried
½ oz. lardons
1 tsp. shallots, minced and soaked in red wine
6 butter-poached rabbit kidneys
3 oz. rabbit jus
1 pinch fines herbes, minced
Sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For Final Assembly:
1 hen egg, poached
½ oz. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the Frisée Salad:
In a metal bowl, combine the frisée, shallots, croutons, and chive batons, and dress them with the sherry vinegar. Let the salad stand while assembling the rabbit liver and kidney lyonnaise. NOTE: Vinegar helps break down the frisée.

Make the Rabbit Liver and Kidney Lyonnaise:
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a touch of butter and melt. Season rabbit livers with salt then add to the pan and cook to rare. Remove rabbit livers and add the lardons. Cook until crisp. Add the wine-soaked shallot, livers and poached kidneys to the pan. Deglaze with sherry vinegar and reduce until it reaches a syrupy consistency. Add the rabbit jus and bring to a simmer. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. When ready to serve, add the fines herbes.

Final Assembly:
Plate rabbit liver and kidney lyonnaise and top with the poached egg. Add olive oil to the frisée salad and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spoon frisée salad on top of the egg, rabbit liver and kidney lyonnaise.

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