ALAIN AND THE HARE-part 2-20/06/2006

…….So, there I was, in the courtyard holding a frozen hare by its hind legs so that it was almost vertical.  Looking like some kind of deformed divining rod.

Now, all of those who know me will agree that I am a caring sort of guy,(sic or should it be sick!),who justifiably prides myself on my sensitivity!

And I could therefore sense that Sheila would not like me to prepare the hare in the house. This conclusion was also helped by the fact that her head was sticking around the door screaming, “TAKE IT AWAY, GET RID OF IT, IT’S NOT COMING IN HERE!!.”, and other phrases of a similar but less polite nature.

As I was standing there, pondering what to do, the two vegetarians who had rented the “Le Sauvignon” apartment scurried past, looks of horror and distaste on their faces.  Which just proves that some good can come out of anything, no matter how bad it seems at the time!!

Friends, who were also there at the time, then suggested that they take it with them and dump in it a hedge thereby ensuring that at least the buzzards and any passing foxes would be happy at this unforeseen cornucopia.  

But no, I had decided that the hare is a noble animal and he should at least provide a repast worthy of him. (or her, come to that.) 

The old cannibals used to believe that, by eating their enemies, some of their strength, speed and cunning passed into their bodies. Perhaps this would be true of the hare, mind you I would have to meet it half way by losing about three stone and it is  cerainly true that eating duck, grouse and pheasant  didn’t mean I could fly when I fell off a 10 metre ladder.  Still, we can dream.

Then, my eye fell across the road to the house of Robert and Jeanette, true country people and Robert was a dedicated chasseur.  I would present the hare to them with a great fanfare, they would accept it ecstatically, probably with copias amounts of Pastis to show their eternal gratitude and I could finally stagger away without having to do the gory skinning and disembowelling myself.

There was, however, just one slight hitch in my plan.

I marched over the road, the hare preceding me like the insignia of some barbaric tribe about to do battle with the Roman Legions. I knocked on the door, Jeanette opened it, to be met by me proudly proffering the cadeau, and then, before I had a chance to speak, she said the French equivalent of; “You much be joking, I‘ve got a frigging freezer full”!

“Oh, right”, I said, just a little disappointed.

“Why don’t you do it yourself”?  she asked

I explained that Sheila had an severe optical problem and thought the hare was a black and white cat and that ,failing  major surgery, nothing could be done to make her change her mind.

“I’ll do it for you in that case”, she volunteered, “and bring it over to you tonight.”

After copious thanks I took my leave and then, as I was walking past Robert’s workshop, I was startled by the roar of a diesel engine starting up. I popped my head into the shed and saw Robert fiddling with an old compressor, as his is want.  As I was talking or rather shouting at him, above the racket of the engine, Jeanette shouted something up the garden; the only word of which I could catch was ‘charcuterie’. Oh good, I thought, she’s going to turn it into sausage or pâté or something like that. 

So that evening she marched into the courtyard where she presented me with this gory red thing which looked as if had had a particularly detailed and clumsy autopsy. It would have cost a fortune at the Tate.  Just to complete the picture, it was covered with a blood stained muslin cloth which looked uncannily like a shroud.  Oh, and it was on a charcuterie plate, I’d obviously missed the latter word!  

As I walked into the house with it Sheila took one look and said stonily,

“I’m going to the Post Office,”

Thus, I reckoned I had about 15 minutes to do something with it before she returned.

How do you cook a hare? No idea, ……internet …., enter hare recipes, find 1,030,000 links. GREAT. I want to cook one hare not the whole frigging species.

Then I saw www.cookitsimply.com. That sounds like me.

Step one: Cut all the meat off the bone.

Step two:  Chop it into bite sized bits.

Step three: Make marinade and leave for few hours.

Step four: Cook slowly in casserole for two hours, adding other ingredients like mushrooms and onions.

Sounds simple enough.  And, amazingly it was. True there were unforeseen complications.  But again searching the internet for cooking terms solved much of the problems caused by cook-speak words like sauté, which apparently means to cook food quickly in a small amount of oil or fat in a skillet or sauté pan over direct heat.  Or, as the rest of us, outside the cooking profession would have it, fry it in a frying pan on a cooker. I mean, what else are you going to use? A candle!!  Beurre Manie was another classic, what the hell’s that I thought, it does not even make a lot of sense in French, translating as butter with an odd habit, so thats clear then! turns out to be nothing more exotic than a butter and flour paste used for thickening!!!  

I was a little worried when I realised that the meat sat in the fridge, luxuriating in its marinade, for a day and a half as opposed to the few hours the recipe specified.  This was due to the fact that I forgot about it.  But it did not seem to come to any harm and the meat actually took on the colour of the Saumur Rouge which was a major part of the marinade. I then thought it was a bit bland so lobbed in loads of different herbs and spices, basing it, highly scientifically, on different coloured lids, a bit of yellow, a bit of green etc. etc. Seemed to work OK., its a doddle this cooking lark and I’m sure that’s how Jamie Oliver does it.   

So, two hours later, it was ready.

It is true that Sheila and our friends Margaret and Allan could not get over their strange aversion to eating cuddly bunnykins. (All the fault of Walt Disney and Beatrice Potter in my humble opinion), but, all the normal people, including French friends, adored it and were lining up like Oliver Twist asking for more. In short a veritable culinary triumph, if I say so myself. 

I am now an avid viewer of cooking programmes and actually watched a late night French one on cooking wild boar.  I wonder if Alain ever gets any of those during the hunting season?  I’d have to get a bigger pan though and I’d need to make about two gallon of marinade, on the other hand at least Sheila couldn’t say it looked like a cat!   

And the morale of this tale is never look a gift hare in the mouth, or chuck it behind a hedge for that matter!!!

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