Rabbit Pot Pie

               This is the dish I cooked at my audition for Top Chef Canada. It's definitely more challenging that my first two posts, but please don't let that stop you from trying this delicious recipe. I had only 30 minutes to pull this off in front of the producers at the auditions. This version is adapted to unfold over a leisurely 2 hours. If you want to try this dish for guests at a diner party, you can do most of the work the day before and simply assemble the pies the day of.

          Although this dish is obviously a riff on the great comfort classic chicken pot pie, the recipe has been modernized a bit for a more elegant finished dish. Instead of making one big pie then dividing that into separate portions, this recipe makes 6 individual little tarts. The other major difference is that instead of cooking the filling inside the crust, I cook the crust separately then add the filling at the end. This allows you to cook the rabbit until it is meltingly tender and ensures that the sauce is perfectly runny and creamy. Also, filling the pies at the last minute means the crust won't have a chance to go soggy. A crisp, crunchy crust goes so great with the gooey, cheesy filling. A big handful of watercress salad on top helps lighten up an otherwise decadent comfort classic.

Start to finish 2 hours, serves 6

 1/2     rabbit, or 2 legs
 250g   green peas
250g   carrots - a mix of colours
 150g   beets - leaves and stems attached
 200g   potatoes
      3    French shallots
      1    head garlic
      1    bunch watercress
100ml  white wine
    1L   low sodium chicken stock
250ml heavy cream (35%)
 250g  swiss cheese
  50ml olive oil
  20 ml white wine vinegar
       salt & pepper

For the dough:
800g flour
220g butter
100ml milk
2 eggs
10g sugar
5g salt

1. Roughly chop the shallots and garlic (skins and all) and place them in a pot with the rabbit. Add the white wine and chicken stock. Add a little water if necessary to ensure that the rabbit is fully covered.
2. Bring to a boil and then let gently simmer for 1 1/2 hours. When fully cooked the rabbit should be easy to separate from the bone. Strain, reserve the stock and let the rabbit cool. Shred the meat by hand, being very careful to remove all the small bones and cartilage. 

3. While the rabbit is simmering, it's time to make the pie crust. Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl combine the butter and flour until it reaches a clumpy, sandy texture. Be careful not to let the butter get too warm or overwork the dough. Large clumps of butter will help keep the crust flaky. 
4. Once the butter is combined into the flour, dig a well in the middle and add the eggs and the milk. Mix the eggs and milk into the dough and form into a ball. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and gently knead the dough. Dust the ball with flour until it is no longer sticky. Cover with a moist towel and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
5. After the dough has rested, return it to a floured work surface and roll it out into a sheet 1/4cm thick. You may find it easier to cut the ball into 3 pieces and then roll each one separately.
6. Place an aluminum tart shell under the dough and gently flatten it into the mold. Place a second  mold over the crust and roughly cut the edges. I like leaving some excess dough sticking out from between the two aluminum molds, because this part will brown a lot and become extra crispy. I also like the look of the rough edges on the finished tarts.

7. Repeat the process in step 6 for each of the tarts. If you are having trouble fitting all six tart shells under the sheet of dough, gather up the pieces you have trimmed off and re-roll the dough into a new 1/4cm thick sheet.  
 8. Transfer the tarts to a baking tray, keeping the top mold in place, and bake in the oven for 15 -20 minutes.  Check on the tarts after about 8 minutes. You will need to push the top mold down with a spoon to prevent the tarts from expanding too much. An old chefs trick to avoid this problem is to fill the top mold with dried beans to weigh them down. If you have some dried beans handy try it! 
9. When the tarts are nicely browned, but not dark, remove them from the oven and let chill. The tart shells can be made one day in advance and stored overnight with a dry towel over them in a cool dry place. 

10. To make the sauce, bring the 35% cream to a simmer and reduce by half. In a separate pot, bring the reserved rabbit/chicken stock to a simmer and reduce that by half.
11. While making the reductions, cut the carrots, potatoes and cheese into small cubes. When the stock has finished reducing, add the carrots and potatoes to the stock and continue to simmer for five more minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are soft.
12. Slowly stir in the reduced cream, then add the shredded rabbit, green peas and cheese to the stock. Let simmer for a further 5 minutes. The filling can then be chilled and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.
13. To make the salad, wash and peel the remaining carrots and the use the peeler to cut the carrots into strips.
14. Cut the leaves off the beets, then chop up some of the stems. Like the carrots, use the peeler to slice the beetroot. Combine the carrots, beetroots, stems and watercress in a mixing bowl and dress with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. 
To assemble:
1 Preheat oven to 425F. Gently warm filling on medium heat                      2.Remove the tarts from the aluminium shells and place in oven for 5 minutes, until warm and golden brown. Place one tart on each plate.            
3.Fill each tart with warm rabbit mixture and top with extra sauce.      
4. Garnish each rabbit pot pie with watercress salad.

Final hints and tips:
- In summer try to find fresh peas, still in the pod for this dish. One of my favorite things about pot pie is the little green peas that pop in your mouth. If green peas are out of season, don't get a can. Canned peas are great on a hot chicken sandwich, but they wont have any pop. At most grocery stores you can often find good quality frozen green peas that will pop just like a fresh ones in a hot pot pie. Just make sure, whether fresh or frozen, you use add them at the last possible minute to avoid overcooking them.    

- To get just the texture you want for the sauce, use extra chicken stock, cream and/or beurre manié. Beurre manié is simply a mixture of equal parts flour and butter. Use room temperature butter, and mix it in your hand with a little flour. If the sauce is too thick, you can dilute it with stock or cream. If you want a thicker sauce, add some beurre manié, a little at a time. For an extra saucy filling, add stock, cream and beurre manié. This technique is really handy for soups too, particularly for clam chowder. 


  1. Oh boy oh boy! I can't WAIT to try this!

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