in search for creative recipes, original techniques and novel pairings
Leg of Hare with Ratatouille
Ratatouille consists of a well-known pairing of zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and herbs. All these ingredients reach their peak in August and each one of them resembles the pure taste of summer. Unfortunately when prepared as a ratatouille, the classic vegetables lose both their vivid color spectrum as well as their distinct textures. For this dish I wanted each and every ingredient to stand for its own with it’s unique taste, color and texture. Of course in the final result the flavors didn’t melt together as in a classic ratatouille. But served in this decomposed way, many different combinations of the vegetables can be discovered and enjoyed.
The main element on the plate was a roasted front leg of hare. I like to roast hare or rabbit in a white wine and herb sauce, which I pour over the legs every 15 minutes during baking so they get a nice glaze. I cooked the small shallots along with the legs. The result was a kind of shallot confit with lots of flavor sucked up by the shallots from the sauce. Because I served the bell pepper as a bright yellow coulis, I didn’t want to puree the baked eggplant. Instead I cut it into very fine small pieces, which are sometimes referred to as caviar in cookbooks (though I don’t really see the connection).
For the zucchini I like to use a preparation technique I came across a few years ago. Zucchini usually tastes bland, but works perfectly with herbs. So when zucchini is sautéd in a pan, usually it’s done with some fresh herbs. Instead of having the herbs next to the vegetables, I like to put the herbs right between the pan and the zucchini and press the zucchini to the pan with a flat lid. This way the zucchini absorbs the flavors of the herbs within seconds. The final garnish on the plate were some cherry tomatoes, which I prepared as a confit. When cut, the hot tomato juice mixed with the sauce from the hare legs and created a wonderful fresh summerly flavor.
Wash the bell pepper, cut in 3 pieces and discard the seeds. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and add the bell pepper with its skin side up. Bake in the oven at the highest setting at the top level until the skins pop and turn black. Remove the bell pepper from the oven, transfer to a small pot and cover. Chill to room temperature. Remove the skins and chop the bell pepper. Blend the bell pepper with 1 tbsp olive oil into a fine puree. Season with salt and a few drops of vinegar. Cover and refrigerate.
For the eggplant "caviar"
Wash the eggplant and put on a baking tray at the middle level in an oven preheated to 250°C / 480 F. Bake for about 30 minutes, turn sometimes. Remove from the oven and chill to room temperature. Discard the skins and burnt spots. Cut the flesh into small cubes. Mix with 1 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and 2-4 drops of chili oil (or freshly ground black pepper). Cover and refrigerate.
For the cherry tomato confit
Using scissors cut the cherry tomatoes so that you leave a green stalk on each tomato. Cut a small cross in the bottom of each tomato, blanch for 15 seconds in boiling hot water and chill in ice water. Carefully remove the skins without removing the stalk. Transfer the tomatoes into small bowl and cover completely with olive oil (the oil can be strained and reused later). Bake in the oven at 80°C / 175 F for 1 hour. Keep refrigerated.
For the hare / rabbit
Wash the legs with cold water and tap dry using kitchen paper. Roast on both sides in a small hot pan with 1 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer the legs to a small baking dish. Add 2 halved garlic cloves, 1 tbsp olive oil, the sage, rosemary, tarragon, bay leaf and 4 sprigs thyme to the hot pan. After 30 seconds add the white wine and the stock to the pan and deglaze. Peel the small shallots and add to the pan. Transfer the contents of the pan to the baking dish with the legs. Bake the legs in an oven preheated to 180°C / 355 F at the lowest level for 70 minutes. Pour some sauce over the legs every 15 minutes.
Wash the zucchini, cut in 4 and discard the seeds. Cut in sticks. 5 minutes before serving the dish, roast the zucchini sticks in a hot pan with 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 sprigs thyme and 1 garlic clove. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Warm the bell pepper coulis, the tomato confit and the eggplant caviar separately in a water bath (bain marie).
Add a leg of hare in the center of a prewarmed plate. Briefly drain the zucchini sticks and cherry tomatoes on kitchen paper. Arrange the zucchini sticks, the bell pepper coulis and the eggplant caviar next to the leg. Add 3 cherry tomatoes and 3 shallots. Pour some sauce over the legs and serve.