Blanc de Hotot rabbit sausage is a product of the Rare Hare Barn in Leon, Kansas. This particular rabbit is one of the globally endangered heritage breeds listed on the Slow Food Ark of Taste. Developed in France by a woman, unusual in the rabbit breeding world, the Blanc de Hotot (pronounced oh-toe) hare can produce 6 pounds of meat on the same feed cost that enables a cow to produce one pound of meat. A rabbit “tractor” system allows the rabbits to graze (grass fed), distribute their fertilizer, and still be protected from predators. The meat is extremely lean, a light pink color and has no shrinkage. It responds to slow, gentle cooking, presenting an exceptionally delicate and creamy flavor.
The rabbit sausage from the Rare Hare Barn is sensibly priced and seasoned perfectly! Gently salted and understated herbs, rabbit is a wonderful all-purpose lean ground meat similar to veal or extremely lean pork sausage. It required the addition of olive oil and ghee for sautéing. With added subtle seasonings of nutmeg and fresh rosemary, shallots, and white wine, this rabbit sausage made one of the best toppings for spinach gnocchi we ever tasted!
I wish I could say that we made our own gnocchi – alas, no time. But as usual, Whole Foods had a delectable selection of freshly made gnocchi – all it took was dollars! For elegant food for entertaining, it was well worth the investment. The mushroom lady at the Takoma Park farm market was the source of the fantastic oyster mushrooms.
Spinach Gnocchi with Rabbit and Oyster Mushrooms
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T ghee or unsalted butter
3/4 C shallots, finely chopped
1# Blanc de Hotot rabbit sausage from the Rare Hare Barn (see Note below)
1 C oyster mushrooms (roughly sliced)
1/4 C dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and soaked in 1 C warm water for 45 minutes
3/4 C porcini liquid
1/2 C dry white wine
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 T finely diced fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 C crème fraiche
1 pound fresh spinach gnocchi
Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Drain porcini mushrooms through a fine sieve, reserving soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms in 1/2 inch pieces.
Heat olive oil in a large heavy sauté pan over medium heat and add ghee and shallots. Saute until shallots are translucent and add sausage meat. The meat is quite pasty and impossible to crumble, but breaking it into small chunks works nicely. Try using wet hands!
Saute rabbit until no longer pink, stirring frequently. Add all mushrooms and continue sautéing, adding additional ghee or olive oil if necessary to prevent sticking. When mushrooms are beginning to soften, add porcini liquid, wine, nutmeg, rosemary, and salt, cover and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off cover and check for liquid level, there should be enough to coat the bottom of the pan, but not too much. If needed, add more porcini liquid. If too much, allow to cook uncovered for 5 minutes to reduce liquid. When finished, add crème fraiche to reach a creamy consistency.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 1 T kosher salt and gnocchi. When water returns to boil cook 3 to 3 1/2 minutes and drain. Place gnocchi in serving dish and top with sauce and grated parmesan. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.
Serves 8 as a 1st course, or 4 generously as a main course.
Wine note: we cooked with and served an Italian wine: Pra Soave Classico 2005, a reasonably-priced and perfect choice for this dish. What do you recommend Wineandjoy?