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[Photograph: Ted Morrison]

For those celebrating Thanksgiving on a small scale, it's hard to justify roasting an entire turkey. Many meal planners turn to turkey breasts or single chickens as a substitute, but they can feel like lackluster, boring choices. Why sacrifice festivity just because there are only a few seats at the table?

A better choice is Jonathan Miles's braised rabbit with apples from his new cookbook, The Wild Chef. It's a rustic-chic dish that celebrates the fall season with a triple-punch of apples. Hard cider, apple brandy, and Granny Smiths all contribute to the rich rabbit leg braising liquid. Miles smartly cooks the rabbit loins separately (wrapped in bacon, just like his turkey) to prevent overcooking the ultra lean meat. Together, the two preparations have the potential to outshine the memory of the missing turkey—something a roast turkey breast could never accomplish.

Why I picked this recipe: I have yet to sit down to a small, intimate Thanksgiving dinner, but when I do, I'd much rather dig into a platter of braised rabbit than a bland, lean turkey breast.

What worked: The tart sweetness of the apple cider is a great match for the flavorful rabbit meat.

What didn't: Cooking the loins properly while wrapped in bacon is a little tricky. I ended up sticking the seared loins in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes after browning the bacon so that they would cook through without burning.

Suggested tweaks: If you don't have Calvados or applejack on hand (and don't want to buy a bottle to use a few teaspoons), you can substitute regular brandy. You'll loose a bit of the apple-ness, but the dish will still taste great.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have 5 (five) copies each of Choosing Sides and The Wild Chef to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.

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