"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Cooking Rabbit
Copyright © 2009 by Bill Scifres

I get several complaints about the meat of rabbits being rather dry on the table, and I think (from past cooking efforts) that this can be as they say.
Cook it any way you like  – especially fry or bake – and it can be dry, even when steamed slowly after it is browned the first time, then re-browned after steaming. But this procedure does make it more tender, even an old bunny. Then, if you want to go whole hog (make that whole rabbit), a pan of nice, dark milk gravy (even water gravy) will further tenderize it and help the dish moisture-wise. Gravy does not have to be made with milk. If there is good moisture when the steaming process is done, just stir in two or three tablespoons of flour, stir it until it cooks a few minutes with all of the skillet “gougings,” and soon you will have a beautiful gravy. Stirring the gravy will dislodge the gougings, but a good metal spatula helps. Don’t let it thicken too much.

To assure these fine eating qualities, I also throw in from the start of any rabbit dish a brace (even three) of short ribs of beef with a good amount of fat.  Make each rib two or three pieces so it gets around well. The ribs (flat bones in) eat just about as well as the rabbit.  
Of course, side dishes (dishes like fried potatoes with onions), a good green salad, and sundry other dishes will go a long way toward making the meat seem more moist.
In the case of an old rabbit being tough when steam-fried, there always is the option of plopping it in a saucepan, dicing an onion on it, and cooking it (covered, so the moisture won’t steam away) very slowly with chicken broth (commercial OK), and half an hour before dinner, enriching it with a flat of homemade, rolled out dumplings. The flour involved will create a rich white gravy, that smacks of excellence as it dribbles down the chin.
All of these rabbit dishes will be made a tad better by a pan of hot buttermilk biscuits for sopping up the dumpling juice or the gravy.

SIGNS OF SPRING – The first evidence of squirrels getting bald spots on the back pointed a telling finger at the coming of spring a few days ago, so more are apt to follow. To deliver a foreword on the culprit that causes this natural phenomenon we will shoot down the romantic explanation that those affected animals are lining a cozy den for little fellers. Taint so!
What it is is gibberellic acid hair loss in spots on Mr. or Mrs. Bushytail’s back. The acid can develop in old corn on which the effected have eaten.
More romantic is the fact that it is not a big thing yet, but I am seeing some paired off geese that seem to have broken from larger flocks and are investigating possible nest sites on the White River island behind my house.
Some maple trees have swollen buds now, too.
Then, of course, there is the Indianapolis Boat, Sport & Travel Show on our threshold (Feb. 20-March 1) There could be – often is – open-water fishing in Indiana during this show. It is, as always, in several buildings at the State Fairgrounds.

CAROLINA BACK – In last weelk’s column this department lamented what seemed to be certain that the sub-zero nights had either frozen the Carolina wrens out or sent them carpetbagger style back home. We hoped it was not true although we know they don’t like cold feet.
Well, I am happy to report I saw at least one in very heavy cover later, so my fears may have been unfounded. At any rate we would like to hear about the species from around the state.
Rich brown bodies and white stripe over the eye will help identify the bird. 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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