Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roadkill Recipes: Briar Rabbit Pot Pie


     For many people that live in cities or suburbia, the most likely place they will encounter wildlife is on the road. Even in rural Tennessee, where I spent this summer, I saw lots of creatures on my commute that I never, or rarely, saw elsewhere. These animals included Wild Turkey, Gray Fox, Corn Snakes, Garter Snakes, Eastern Meadowlarks, and White-tailed Deer, for some examples. But, one of the animals that really sticks out in my mind is the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

    I must have seen a few of these animals every day. I'm not sure why they were so abundant. It could be that they just love to eat the greenery in everyone's backyards. It could be that their predators like coyotes, bobcats, fox, and owls were less likely to be found in the neighborhoods I drove through and the lack of predators allowed the rabbit population to skyrocket. In general, predators tend to be less abundant and reproduce slower than the animals they feed on. If you think about it, how would it work any other way? Any tasty little animal has got to reproduce quickly and in considerable numbers to continue the family line. A rare rabbit species that doesn't produce a lot of offspring is likely to have been eaten to extinction long ago.

   So, with all the rabbits hopping all over the road, it was only a matter of time...

   A co-worker of mine came into the house after a long day at work and mentioned he had just ran over a rabbit down the road from our house. A shame, I said, half to myself, we should eat it. I have high standards when it comes to my protein, I don't eat meat from factory farms and prefer to buy my meat locally, where I can see what the animals are fed and how they are treated. As a result, meat is a rare luxury and a fresh roadkill could be a fortuitous experience (although not for the animal that had been run over, I suppose). And before I knew what was happening, I had agreed to cook the animal if he skinned and gutted it. I was left standing in the kitchen, unsure if we had had a serious conversation, when he vanished into the night to retrieve the roadkill rabbit.

   I'll save you the gory details, but after a brief session outside, I was presented with a fresh rabbit corpse and these parting words: Rabbit Pot Pie.



  
  A day or so later. I went to work. Borrowing liberally from my various cookbooks, online recipes, and some personalized instruction from the mother of the rabbit-slayer (apparently famous for her pot pies), I first took stock of the vegetables I had recently purchased from a local farm and a nearby farmers market. 





Cubed potatoes and slices carrots went into a pot to steam and soften while onions, garlic, and turkey beans went into a pan liberally doused with butter. 



   At the same time, I coated the rabbit with oil and butter and threw on a ton of onions and garlic and various spices to bake in the oven.

  After the rabbit was baked through, I carved it and combined all the vegetables into some pie crusts (above) and threw it back in the oven.

The final product
   If I may say so myself, I think it turned out very well. Perhaps as well as the mustard-rubbed venison backstrap steaks I prepared from a roadkill deer a couple years ago. I believe that brings my roadkill recipe list up to three: rattlesnake, deer, and now rabbit.

  Have you eaten roadkill? Please share your recipes or experiences below.






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