Seamus Mullen, award-winning New York chef, restauranteur, and avid hunter, presents his favorite holiday wild game recipe: Ballotine of Cottontail Rabbit

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Ballotine of Cottontail Rabbit
by Seamus Mullen

Special Equipment needed:
Meat grinder
Rotisserie/grill
Boning knife
Butcher’s twine
Hardwood or fruitwood for grilling

Ingredients:
2 Rabbits plus all their tasty organs like kidneys, livers and hearts
1 bunch sage
1/4 pound thinly sliced lardo
4 slices good, smoky bacon, diced
1/4 pound caul fat
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch thyme
zest of 2 lemons
1T ground coriander
1T smoked Spanish paprika
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Directions:

Start a fire in your grill and set up your rotisserie.One rabbit will be ground for stuffing, the other will be deboned and rolled up.

For the ground rabbit:
Quarter, debone and roughly chop the meat including organ meat. In a large mixing bowl combine chopped meat with bacon, garlic, paprika, coriander, lemon zest and thyme and season with 2 T kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and then grind in meat grinder and set aside.

For the deboned rabbit:
With a small boning knife, carefully debone the rabbit, taking care not to cut all the way through the flesh at any point, the objective is to keep the entire rabbit whole, without it’s bones. I start at the legs, working down the femur with the tip of my knife making small feathering slices to pull the flesh away from the bone, all the way down the shank. Next cut the belly flap, working around the ribs to the spine on both sides. Then move on to the fore-legs, delicately cutting away the flesh at the scapula and down the fore-shanks. The final part involves removing the spine. I start at the hips and work up the spine, gently removing the flesh on either end until I reach the neck. If you do a good job, you should be left with a perfect, boneless bunny.

To assemble:

On a clean, large cutting board, spread out a rectangular piece of caul fat, large enough to fully wrap up your little bunny. Pick about twenty sage leaves and create a nice patch about twice the size of your bunny. Thoroughly season the bunny inside and out with kosher salt and fresh pepper and then lay the bunny with it’s backside down, on top of the sage.

Layer the inside of the bunny with thin slices of lardo to completely cover and then spread out the ground rabbit mixture on top to create a nice filling. Carefully fold in the butt and the neck end of the bunny about 1/2 inch and then roll up like a cigar. Take the edge of the caulfat closest to you and roll the whole thing up as tightly as you can, then using butcher’s twine, truss it every 1/2″ and then a final truss lengthwise to hold it all together. The end result should be a nice, tubular ballotine of bunny.

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Skewer the ballotine with your rotisserie skewer and gently grill over live fire, basting as you go with butter or olive oil infused with herbs and garlic. I check the internal temp of the ground rabbit as I go, looking for no more than 160F, ideally closer to 150F.

Once it’s cooked through, remove from the fire and allow to rest for 5 minutes before carving. Carve into medallions and eat right away. I love to serve with a nice creamy polenta and a good glass of Rioja.

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More about Seamus Mullen:
Seamus Mullen is an award-winning New York chef, restaurateur and cookbook author known for his inventive yet approachable modern Spanish cuisine. In August 2011, Seamus opened his first solo restaurant Tertulia in Manhattan’s West Village, which was awarded two stars from The New York Times, three stars from New York Magazine and a finalist for one of the industry’s highest honors, the James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant. Most recently, Seamus opened El Colmado, a tapas and wine bar at Gotham West Market, a new food hall in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.

Seamus first rose to national prominence in 2006 with the opening of Boqueria, a highly successful tapas restaurant in New York’s Flatiron District, and again in 2009, as one of 3 finalists on the popular Food Network series “The Next Iron Chef.” He has been a contributing columnist toEveryday with Rachael Ray, and was a regularly featured judge on the James Beard Award-winning Food Network series “Chopped.” In 2012, Seamus released his first cookbook “Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Better,” published by Andrews McMeel. He currently contributes to SURFACE Magazine and Panna, an iPad video cooking app.

Follow Seamus Mullen on Twitter: @SeamusMullen