De la cuisine: Cozy Nights

Usher in fall with roasted rabbit or chicken and apple galette

When a blustery cold front slides into south Louisiana, my husband and I know the drill. Light a fire in the fireplace in our party house living and dining area that looks out over Bayou Teche.

Invite a few friends over for a cozy, leisurely supper. (Heck, they can bring their PJs and we could have a sleepover.)

Set up a comfy dining area with lots of throw pillows in front of the fire. If we are lucky enough to get some freshly-shucked oysters, we can snack on some on the half-shell before dinner. Dipped in a tangy horseradish and ketchup-based sauce, and plopped on a cracker, the slippery oysters go down easy, washed down with ice-cold beers.

Follow that up with a rabbit stew or rabbit bathed in a Dijonnaise sauce. For dessert, an apple galette is ideal for this time of year.

When visiting the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France several years ago, I enjoyed the rabbit Dijonnaise at a local bistro. Having a penchant for anything featuring tart-tangy Dijon mustard, and after playing with several recipes, I came up with this.

Note: I suggest a rich chardonnay or a pinot noir to pair with the rabbit dish.


Airline chicken breast is a cut comprising of a boneless chicken breast with the drumette attached. This elegant cut has the skin on breast with the first wing joint and tenderloin attached, otherwise boneless. The cut is also known as a frenched breast. A good butcher will be happy to fabricate these for you.


TIP

You can certainly use a pre-made pie dough, usually available in the dairy cases. I prefer the refrigerated pie dough by Pillsbury. There are two in a pack. Just remember to set out the pie dough on the kitchen counter for about 20 minutes to allow to come to room temperature.


MAIN COURSE

Roasted Chicken or Rabbit with Mustard Sauce (AKA Lapin Roti Dijonnaise)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Season one 4 to 4 ½ pound rabbit or 4 chicken breasts with skin but boneless (or airline chicken breasts) with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large cast-iron or ovenproof skillet.

Place meat in pan and brush with butter/oil mixture. Scatter 24 pearl onions (peeled) in pan and roast, uncovered, until meat is golden, about 30 minutes. Cover and continue roasting for 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven and place on stove. Transfer the rabbit (or chicken) to a platter and keep warm.

Pour 1½ cup dry white wine into skillet and deglaze over medium-high heat, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Simmer until reduced by a third, about 10 minutes. Whisk in 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 1 cup crème fraiche or sour cream, reduce the heat to low and cook for 4 minutes more. Pour over rabbit (or chicken) to serve.

Makes 4 servings


ON THE SIDE

Potato Croquettes

Boil 4 pounds red potatoes in salted water until they are fork tender. Remove from heat, cool and peel. In a large bowl, mash potatoes, leaving some lumps. Add 1 cup finely chopped onions, ½ cup finely chopped green bell peppers, 3 eggs (beaten), salt, freshly ground black pepper and several dashes of Tabasco. With your hands, shape mixture into balls, about two inches in diameter (or three-inch pancakes). Dredge in all-pupose flour and drop into hot vegetable oil. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot. Makes 6 to 8 servings


DESSERT

Thyme-Scented Apple Galette

Once while visiting Eastern Townships of Canada, I was walking the grounds of Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, an abbey of the Benedictine monks, and smelled a strong, delightful fragrance of apples. I quickly realized that I was walking along a path adjacent to a lovely apple orchard maintained by the good monks. Since then, apple treats are a must in the fall.

Pastry Dough

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Filling

  • 4 medium Gala, Braeburn or Honey Crisp apples (about 2 pounds)
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ⅓ cup sugar

Glaze

  • ½ cup white wine
  • ½ cup apple jelly
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh thyme sprigs

Pastry dough: Combine flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. With a pastry blender or fingertips, blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, stir together egg yolk and cold water. Add yolk mixture to flour mixture, about a tablespoon at a time, tossing to incorporate until dough is formed.

On a work surface, smear dough in several forward motions with the heel of your hand. Scrape dough together to form a ball and flatten into a one-inch-thick circle. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Filling: Halve and core apples (do not peel) and cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices. In a large bowl, toss apple slices with wine.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Make a 15-inch round and transfer to large baking sheet. Fold in edge one inch all around to form a border. Arrange apple slices on pastry in overlapping concentric circles. Brush slices and pastry border with wine remaining in the bowl. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until apples are tender and pastry is golden. Cool on baking sheet on a rack.

Glaze: Simmer wine with jelly and thyme until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Remove thyme with a slotted spoon, then brush hot glaze generously over apple slices. If you have some thyme sprigs remaining, garnish the top of the galette before serving.


 

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