Fennel-roasted rabbit salad and fennel pollen aioli

Kimberly Paley, Paley’s Place

August 20, 2009

Premium wine:
Ken Wright Cellars, 2007 Pinot Noir, ‘Abbott Claim Vineyard’

A large bundle of dried fennel twigs
1 cup dry white wine
1 rabbit, about 3 lbs, cut into large chunks
1 tbsp fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
1 tbsp ground piment d’Espelette or 1 tsp cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 rashers of bacon (optional)
2 whole heads of garlic
4 whole shallots
1 bunch baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, or 2 larger carrots, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 bulb fennel, cleaned, trimmed and sliced very thinly
¼ cup dried cranberries
8 oz hearty winter greens like rocket, mizuna, or frisée, stemmed, washed, and dried
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, picked, washed, and dried
1 bunch tarragon leaves, picked
1 bunch chervil leaves, picked
1½ cups fennel aioli

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spread fennel twigs across the bottom of a roasting pan.
Rub the rabbit pieces all over with fennel pollen and piment d’Espelette.
Season them generously with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet until it shimmers.
Sear the rabbit pieces a few at a time on all sides to give them a golden color, adding more oil as needed.
Place them on top of the fennel twigs as they come out of the skillet. Discard the leftover oil.

While the skillet is still hot, add the wine, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release the flavorful brown bits.
Pour the heated wine into the roasting pan over the rabbit pieces.
Lay the bacon rashers over the rabbit pieces.
Nestle the heads of garlic, shallots, and carrots around the rabbit.
Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven.
Roast, undisturbed, for 45 minutes.
Take the cover off and roast for another 45 minutes. (As you take the cover off, be sure to notice the intoxicating, butterscotch-like aromas of cooked fennel, garlic, and bacon. I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.)
Pick off a small chunk of meat from the rabbit thigh and taste.
It should be tender and flavorful.
If it is to your liking, remove from the oven and let rest for about 30 minutes.
If not, cook a bit longer and test again.

Pick the shallots out, peel them, and transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Gently squeeze garlic cloves into the mixing bowl. Then transfer the cooked carrots as well.
Place the bacon and rabbit onto the cutting board.
With your hands, pick the meat of the bones into large chunks and place into the mixing bowl.
Cut the bacon rashers into bite-size pieces and add them to the bowl as well.
Pour off the liquid from the roasting pan (if any is left) and save for thinning out the aioli or another use.
Sadly, the fennel twigs are not edible, so discard them.
Add the sliced fennel, cranberries, greens, parsley, tarragon, and chervil.
Stir in half the aioli and mix all ingredients well.
Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, and mix in more aioli if needed.

Serve immediately.

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