How to Break Down and Cook Whole Rabbits with James Beard Award-Winning Chef Nina Compton—Prime Time


– Ben, why don’t people eat more rabbit? – I don’t know. – Was it Bugs Bunny? – He was a bit of a jerk actually. – Are they intimidated to cook it? – I am. – Is it because people have them as pets? – They really shouldn’t, they’re actually pretty mean as pets. – So we’re here at
Bywater American Bistro. We’re gonna go see our
good friend, Nina Compton. She’s gonna teach us how to cook a whole
rabbit and make a curry. – Welcome to New Orleans! – Cheers Ben. – Where did you get that glass of wine? – I’m in New Orleans. – I don’t have one, thanks a lot. (upbeat music) Welcome! We are in New Orleans and when you are in New Orleans, one of the very first
things you have to do is visit Nina Compton. Nina, thank you so much
for having us today. – My pleasure, my pleasure. Welcome. – [Ben] Thank you. – We are absolutely so excited, and today we’re gonna talk about rabbit, which is not something that we have a lot of experience
with at the butcher shop. A lot of restaurants in New
York don’t serve rabbit. You do. So I think that touches
on like one of the first barriers to entry with rabbit is that people are like, “Oh it’s
cute, I can’t eat it”. But, it’s actually like,
a sustainable food, and they’re actually really easy to cook. – Yes. – Why do you think people
don’t eat more rabbit? – It’s very lean as well, so
there isn’t a lot of meat, so it is tedious, but I
think it’s really worth it. – You’re gonna use the whole animal, you gotta get all that meat off of it. – Yeah, it’s a lot. I had a friend that Frenched the ribs, I’m like how did you do that? They’re so tiny. – [Ben] We’re doing a
curry today, correct? – Yes. So let’s start. – Yeah, let’s do it. Excited to talk about them because whole rabbit, kinda like a whole chicken, you really should buy the whole thing. – We get the rabbits from
Sweet Caroline in Mississippi. I’m just gonna open it up, so
you see here it’s pretty lean. And I think people can do at home. So you treat it almost like a chicken where you cut the quarters off. – [Ben] Just like right under the breast. – Right under yes. – Oh that’s gorgeous. You can tell how fresh these rabbits are just looking at them. – Yes. – There is such thing as a rabbit loin, it’s ridiculously small and adorable. Is that something that
you can actually serve? – You can, so it’s right here. So it looks like almost
like a little tenderloin. – Looks exactly like a tenderloin. – And that is so tiny
by the time you cook it, it’s smaller than my pinky, so we just keep it on. – This is great because even
when we break these down in the shop, the very few
times we ever have them, it’s very much kind of like a traditional way that
you would imagine like a butcher in a movie chopping it up, it’s just like whack, whack, you just like, the two
shoulders are separated, the two loins are separated. (upbeat music) Can I do a couple? – [Nina] Yes. I have close to zero
experience with rabbit. In New York you just
don’t see rabbit on menus, it just isn’t there. We’ve been in New Orleans 20 hours and we’ve seen it on several menus. It’s really exciting but like, I know it’s a blind spot in my own butchering and restaurant experience, I haven’t eaten it, I haven’t
cooked it at all at home, literally ever. – Treat it like a chicken. (upbeat music) – So when we first opened the shop, we wanted to carry different things so we did get fresh rabbits but we could only by them buy the case, so it was 12 rabbits, we were a new business, I mean– – It’s a hard sell sometimes. – A small business so we’d
maybe sell two a week. I personally love them, I just don’t wanna
de-bone them every week. – It’s a lot of work because, like I said there isn’t a lot of meat and the bones are so tiny, so it is quite tedious when people say I’m gonna de-bone a whole rabbit. You do the whole thing like this, the yield is so low. But it is pretty delicious. So we’re gonna cure these in equal parts salt and sugar for four hours. And then we’re gonna confit them. We roast the torso and then we add brown chicken stock. It is worth that time curing it I think it’s just like brining anything else. It’s just adding that salt all the way through the muscular tissue. – Yeah, so you’re really
building several layers of rabbit flavor into this one dish. – Yes. – Wow, so four hours, binge watch your show that you wanna watch and then come back and cook for
hour, hour and a half. – That’s how we do it. (laughing) So we’re gonna cure these, if you wanna grab the salt and sugar. – Yes ma’am. So it’s not, it doesn’t
need to be measured out, it’s just cover the surfaces– – Yeah so you wanna do
like just a light cure. I think a lot of people tend to put too much salt sometimes and that really cooks
the outside of the rabbit and you don’t want that. Just be generous, treat it with respect and that really helps for the
end product of what you get. – [Ben] Yeah. The legs are gonna be
the majority of our meat. – Yes. We do one leg per order and then part of the curry built into the sauce is gonna be some of this meat. (upbeat music) So we’re gonna put these away and then we’re gonna roast these and then we’re gonna
start building the curry. – [Ben] I wish I was more adept at using this amount of spices. This is like a neverending math equation. – It’s a lot, but it’s like, it’s a skill I wish I had. – What I the inspiration
behind this rabbit dish? – So yeah it’s curry, I’m from Saint Lucia and
curry’s a big thing for us, that’s my comfort food, like on a rainy day I
want a big bowl of curry and some rice. We have a lot of open-air markets, and you go down to the market at 5 a.m., it’s full of produce and fish and beef and everybody’s just like gathering, and you can smell the fresh thyme, you can
smell the fresh curry leaves, you have cinnamon. Smelling those aromas, I’m like this just makes sense to just put this with fish or put
this with rabbit or chicken, it’s just something that just
came second nature to me. With all these spices, it’s really a pain to pick the spices out, so we just tie it up in a sachet. So here we have star anise, and then clove, coriander, and then a lot of cardamom. To build any curry I
think the biggest spice that is really the most fragrant is the green cardamom. – I know curries are kind of can be even family-specific,
not just region-specific, so is this is this your family or
is this your specific way that you’ve developed. – This is my way that I like to do curry. I think a lot of people don’t use fresh curry leaves enough, I don’t see them very often. It just sets that curry apart I think. Okay so then I’m gonna have you tie up one of the torsos. – [Ben] So far what we’ve
built is for the broth? – [Nina] Yes. (upbeat music) – [Ben] And now we’re gonna build a curry? – Now we’re gonna build a curry. Nice hot pan, olive oil, onions. – This is great, I’ve never made it with
someone who’s like, “No, I actually know what I’m doing.” (laughing) – I think for the home cook, I think it’s really not going too extreme with some spices, I think a lot of people go
too forward on some spices and it kind of kills everything, you have to find that happy balance of what you really wanna shine. Do you want it to be the cardamom? Do you want it to be the cinnamon? (upbeat music) And then we’re gonna add our sachet. Just tuck it in there. And then we’re gonna add the torso back into there. And then we’re gonna let this simmer just until all the meat comes off and it’s nice and tender. – I mean for the amount of flavor that’s going into this, this is actually like, once it’s prepared, once you have everything together, fairly simple. It’s not too much, like I was having an anxiety attack with everything on the table, now it’s like, oh, all these things together, wrap them up, put them here, and then– – And it’s not that hard because I think this is something that somebody
can do at home and just set it and forget it. It’s very, very simple. This is restaurant-style
but you could do it without braising the torso, you could buy the legs and confit them and make
the curry jus separately and then just finish it. – It’s an approachable project. You know you’re gonna get
the meat from the legs, you’re building a spice kit, and then this is, this already looks like it’s
gonna feed us for a couple days and we’re using the whole rabbit. You bought the whole thing, you’re gonna use the whole thing, plenty of meat but also
just a ton of flavor, I can only imagine this
left over day three is like even better. – Because the flavors
like really marinate. (upbeat music) So now the curry is done so we’re gonna pull the rabbit out and I’m gonna keep the sachet in here. So then I add the coconut milk once the braise is done. Let that come together. So we plate our jasmine rice. And I’m a big textural person so we top it with toasted you say pecans or pecans? – I say pecans. – I say pecans. – You say pecans. I kinda go back and forth, I flip flop sometimes, I don’t even know what I say. – [Ben] Yeah, I had to
think about it for a second, I was like, I can’t remember. – Put the curry on top. There’s the leg. – [Ben] Oh that is beautiful. – You really wanna put a
nice amount of the curry. Because that rice really
soaks everything up. – Also just the way that curry smells, I want a lot of it. – Three days. I’ll give you some to go, you’ll have it in three days. – [Ben] That is gorgeous. – [Nina] And that is for you guys to eat. – Wow. – This is so exciting. – You have actually managed
to take the intimidation not just out of curry but like out of cooking a rabbit. I actually feel pretty
confident about this now. – Good. Well cheers. – Cheers. – Welcome to New Orleans and rabbit and curry. Cheers. – [Brent] Thank you so much. (upbeat music) – This is so fantastic but also so New Orleans specific. Fantastic dish, thank you so much. – The texture’s phenomenal. I thought it would just be like braised into just kinda being like mush, but it’s, it really has
still that body to it. I just realized I’ve been
cooking rabbit wrong. – I mean that also
makes it so approachable that like you’re gonna buy the whole thing and you can actually do this in an hour and a half. Like that’s an, actually achievable weeknight meal. – It also makes sense
you would use the thigh because I mean even looking at the animal, the thigh is by far the biggest part, it’s the meatiest part, everything else has a lot
of smaller bones to it and you’re gonna have to braise it or have an intern like just
pick all that meat off. – I know. – It presents totally approachable like a chicken leg does, but you kinda know, oh
there’s just two bones, you don’t have a ton of tiny bones. Yeah. – Yeah. Wow. – If you like chicken, you’ll like rabbit. It’s like even lighter than chicken and everyone in the world likes chicken, and so go buy a damn rabbit. (upbeat music)

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