Sunday, September 17, 2017

Lord of the Rings - Foraged Herb & Rabbit Stew

Sam busied himself with his pans. “What a hobbit needs with coney,” he said to himself, “is some herbs and roots, especially taters. Herbs we can manage, seemingly.”

“Gollum!” he called softly. “I want some herbs." Gollum’s head peeped out of the fern, but his looks were neither helpful nor friendly. “A few bay-leaves, some thyme and sage, will do -- before the water boils,” said Sam.

“No!” said Gollum. “Sméagol is not please. And Sméagol doesn’t like smelly leaves. He doesn’t eat grasses or roots, no precious, not till he’s starving or very sick, poor Sméagol.”

“Smjagol’ll get into real true hot water, when this water boils, if he don’t do as he’s asked,” growled Sam. “Sam’ll put his head in it, yes precious. And I’d make him look for turnips and carrots, and taters too, if it was the time o’ the year.”


- "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit," The Two Towers

Tolkein's classic series, the Lord of the Rings, inspired this rabbit stew packed with herbs.

Foraging for ingredients and cooking this stew takes up about half of this chapter from The Two Towers, appropriately named "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit." It makes for a fun cooking challenge: can we develop a tasty recipe with only the ingredients the hobbits would have had on their journey to Mordor?

I did take a couple of liberties - since it is indeed the time of year here, I included the turnips, carrots and "taters" that Sam longed for. I also assumed that the hobbits might be carrying a few cooking supplies, like cooking oil, salt, pepper, and - perhaps most optimistically - chicken bouillon cubes. Finally, I thickened the stew with flour. Wandering hobbits would have had access to lembas bread, however I had to make do with what I had.

While the origins of this recipe are fantastical, this main course wouldn't be out of place at a Sunday night dinner. The root vegetables and woodsy herb flavors are perfect for a fall night.

Rabbit stewed to tender perfection with root vegetables and fresh thyme and sage.


Ingredients


Rabbit looks similar to chicken thighs, but the flavor is richer and gamier and the texture is a little more stringy. Still, skinless bone-in chicken thighs make a good substitute for the rabbit in this recipe.

Serves 3-4 people.
  • 1 rabbit (2-2.5 lb) or equivalent weight skinless bone-in chicken thighs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs thyme, woody stems removed, minced finely
  • 25-30 sage leaves
  • 1-2 small turnips
  • 2 carrots
  • 1-2 red potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 portion finely crumbled lembas, or 3 tbsp flour
  • About 4 cups chicken broth
  • salt, to taste
Tolkein fans and hobbits on a quest will both enjoy this rabbit stewed in herbs.

Instructions

  1. Remove the giblets from the rabbit and mince very finely, then set aside.
  2. Cut up the rabbit with a sharp knife (more detailed instruction here). Remove the forelegs, which are not attached to the body by bone. Remove the hindlegs at the pelvis joint by first snapping the ball-and-socket joint backwards. Chop along the spine to separate the two halves of the rib cage, then chop each side into thirds.
  3. Peel the carrots and slice into half-inch rounds. Peel the potatoes and turnips and chop into half-inch chunks.
  4. In a dutch oven, heat the cooking oil over medium-high heat. Working 3-4 pieces at a time, brown both sides of each rabbit piece and set aside.
  5. Brown the carrot, turnip and potato in the remaining oil. Don't stir too much - you want to form a golden crust.
  6. Bring the heat down to medium, then sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Toss well to mix the flour and residual oil together. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the flour turns a dark blonde color.
  7. Pour in 1 cup of the chicken broth, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the flavorful brown fond.
  8. Stir in the thyme, sage, bay leaves and pepper, then return the rabbit to the pot. Top up with additional chicken stock until everything is covered.The fresh herb aroma will fill the room long before the rabbit is tender enough to eat. Be patient!
  9. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 60-90 minutes, or until the meat is tender. Stir in the finely minced giblets and cook for 2 -3 minutes more. Taste for salt and fish out the bay leaves before serving.
Make a Lord of the Rings themed dinner! Fresh herbs and foraged root vegetables pair deliciously with rabbit, or substitute with chicken thighs.

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