After the challenges and intensity of the past year, I can't wait for the rabbit - the Year of the Rabbit, that is. According to the Chinese calendar, the year starting Feb. 3 comes under the influence of the gentle woodland creature, signaling a peaceful, more relaxed period after the Year of the Tiger.
In my native Mauritius, we celebrated Chinese New Year - my grandfathers, who came from Beijing, brought a strong sense of tradition with them - but we did so in the context of our lives on the island. Here in Canada, even newer interpretations have emerged, including this recipe for pressure-cooked rabbit.
Rabbit is a flavourful, lean and underutilized ingredient in the Canadian diet. While plentiful, healthful and easy to raise, it plays second fiddle to chicken and pork. To cook it, I suggest using a pressure cooker. It's a key tool in my home kitchen, allowing me to extract more flavour from food while trapping in all the moisture. It's also a quick and efficient way to cook tough meats like rabbit legs, which become moist and tender after little cooking time.
This dish, with dried bean curd and lily flowers, symbolizes wealth, happiness and togetherness in the new year. Glass noodles, an easy-to-cook, versatile starch, work well either sautéed in a pan or served cold in a light salad.
Chef David Lee is co-owner of Nota Bene in Toronto.
David Lee's pressure-cooked rabbit with glass noodles and bean curd
2 rabbit legs (1 front and 1 back),
dried and dusted with Chinese
¼ cup Shaoxing rice wine
1 cup daikon, cut into 2-inch thick cubes
1 tablespoon ginger, finely sliced
4 green onions, cut into 4-inch pieces
½ cup dried lily flowers, soaked 1 hour in cold water before use
½ cup dried bean curd, soaked 1 hour in cold water before use
2 cups glass noodles, soaked 1 hour
in cold water before use
4 sprigs fresh coriander, washed
and root removed
Dash of canola oil
Kosher salt for seasoning
Heat pressure cooker to medium/high heat. Add a dash of canola oil, rabbit legs, sliced ginger, lily flowers and bean curd. Mix briefly and season with kosher salt. Next add daikon, green onion and Shaoxing wine. If necessary, add enough water to just cover the rabbit. Tighten lid on pressure cooker and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. Release the pressure valve on the lid and wait until the cooker releases all of its pressure (about three minutes).
Take some braising liquid from pot and place in a medium-sized pan, heat on high. Remove glass noodles from water, add to the pan with braising liquid and cook for three minutes. Toss noodles to mix flavours. Add more liquid if required. Transfer noodles to serving dish. Place braised rabbit on top of noodles and season with coriander.
There are plenty of beverage options for this dish. My first choice would be a good-quality cold sake, which would resonate with the rice base of the Shaoxing rice wine used in the preparation. Serve cold sake in a white-wine glass rather than one of those small cups used for warm sake. A floral, spicy white wine, such as gewürztraminer, would be my second choice. Pinot gris or riesling should work well, too. If you prefer red wine, stick to lighter-bodied, fruity styles, such as Beaujolais or pinot noir. Another good alternative: wheat beer.
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