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Be very very quiet...I’m hunting rabbits

Roasted rabbit legs with a spicy prickly pear sauce
  • Roasted rabbit legs with a spicy prickly pear sauce

I sent a text to my wife, “Let’s drop everything this weekend, throw the air mattress in the back of the Jeep, and cruise up the Eastern side of the Sierras for an epic adventure.” She responded, “Sure.” (We also had our two-year-old, Zoe Kathryn, to take with us.)

Four hours from home, we found ourselves pulling into the quaint town of Lone Pine, which sits at the base of the Eastern Sierras. The landscape around the town, including the famed Alabama Hills, has been the backdrop for many movies, mostly Westerns, dating back to the 1930s.

Our campsite was really nothing but high desert scattered with cactus, brush, and rocks. Perfect for rabbits. We parked in an unoccupied area, and I grabbed my shotgun and set off on foot. I was no more than 100 yards past a nearby creek bed when I jumped up the jackrabbit. He held tight, hidden behind a bush until the last instant. I could have reached out and grabbed him. Boom… he took off running from behind the bush. I raised my shotgun and fired but missed…forgot to lead. I tracked the rabbit with my gun, chambered another round, and let it rip. The rabbit rolled forward in his tracks and ceased to move.

I walked over to the rabbit and said a quiet thanks for his sacrifice. This meat would feed my family and I was always taught to show appreciation and respect to the animal. While walking to the Jeep, I began to think about the meal I would prepare.

Long ago I was studying the memoir of Marco Pierre White, who was one of the original famed chefs…long before Emeril or Bobby Flay. Marco Pierre White always said to pair wild animals with a food that they eat. This will help blend the natural flavors from within the meat. This concept is something I have always tried to follow as I develop recipes, and it has never let me down.

As I walked in the desert, I scanned my immediate vicinity to see what this rabbit would have normally eaten. I know that in drought, similar to the one we are in, rabbits will often eat the base of the nopales cactus to obtain both nutrients and moisture. I noticed that there were several reddish purple fruits attached to the nopales cactus pads. These delicious fruits are most commonly called prickly pears and they have some amazing culinary uses. One such use is in a sauce to coat roasted rabbit legs.

  • Garlic Sage Brine
  • Ingredients:
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons salt (non-iodized)
  • Preparation:
  • 1) Bring all of the ingredients to a boil in a medium sauce pan
  • 2) Simmer for 2–3 minutes
  • 3) Remove from fire and allow to cool
  • 4) Soak the cleaned rabbit quarters (1 hour for each 1 lb of meat)
  • Prickly Pear Sauce
  • Ingredients:
  • Please be mindful of the small hair-like thorns, even though most stores clean them off prior to selling. If you harvest the pears from the wild, then the thorns should be removed before cleaning.
  • 8 red prickly pears, skinned
  • 1 tablespoon of lime or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Preparation:
  • 1) Purée the prickly pears in a food processor.
  • 2) You will have to strain out the seeds from the juice. Discard the seeds.
  • 3) Place the juice in a medium pot over medium heat
  • 4) Mix in the lime juice, chili powder, cayenne, and salt
  • 5) Reduce the juice by half.
  • Roasted Rabbit Legs
  • Ingredients:
  • 4 rabbit quarters
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • Preparation:
  • 1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • 2) Remove the rabbit legs from the brine and rinse well with water.
  • 3) In a large mixing bowl, toss the rabbit legs in olive oil and then season with the salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, and sage.
  • 4) Place the legs in a glass baking dish and add the white wine.
  • 5) Cover the pan with aluminum foil.
  • 6) Bake for 40 minutes covered and then an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
  • 7) Remove the legs from the pan.
  • 8) Coat the legs with the prickly pear sauce.

[Post edited for length.]

Blog: Harvesting Nature

Post Title: Roasted Rabbit Legs with a Spicy Prickly Pear Sauce

Post Date: December 10, 2014

Author: Justin Townsend | From: Oceanside | Blogging since: 2011

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Shouldn't that be: I’m hunting wabbits!

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