A few weeks ago I left the Alpine Lys Valley, where I visited my friend Federico’s new business Paysage à Manger, with some kilos’ worth of potatoes of four different types, species that have been unavailable from our tables for quite a long time. This is what I’ve come up with in order to use them.
Kuroda, to my untrained ears, had some sort of Japanese flavour, a Far East echo. Then looks, then, were even more interesting: a vivid red tuber, with almost perfect elliptical shape. I didn’t know what it was or how it tasted like but, in a classic case of judging a book by its cover, I asked Fede to drop me a kilo of it.
As it turned out, Kurodas are as Japanese as the cooks at an all-you-can-eat sushi parlour charging £9.99 for the job but, unlike them, they’re not shoddy at all, much to the contrary. Federico advised me that these were potatoes used, back in the day, by Alpine communities as a side for hearty meat dish. The perfect candidate to accompany my personal approach to the coniglio al salmì.
The salmì rabbit is a popular dish from Northern Italy, cooked basically everywhere around the Po valley for important occasions. It’s, basically, a marinated piece of meat, with potatoes and other vegetables. There are many varieties, but those typical of my region use rich, strong red wine for the marination, wines such as Barbera or Barolo. And this, you see, was a problem.
Wine, in this Godforsaken country that believes that a screw-top bottle is OK, is an expensive commodity. Back in Italy, or France for that matter, one wouldn’t have to struggle to find a relatively cheap but good quality wine for a marinade, but not in the UK. At least not when bottles have prices starting at £6.99 for what’s, essentially, bottled piss.
The logic alternative is to revert to beer. If there’s a thing that Britons can teach the world is how to make proper ales, and it was on a Golden Ale that I settled. Additionally, being brewed by Fuller’s not far from where I live, it’s also a local product. Now, with everything ready, let’s get down to the recipe.
Ingredients (for three particularly hungry commensals)
Three rabbit legs (chopped), half a duck breast (also chopped); one kg of Kuroda potatoes; three big carrots; two onions; garlic; 500ml of red beer with 5/6° (not too bitter – a good Belgian one will do if you can’t find the Golden Ale) or an equal amount of red wine such as Barolo; a cup of broth; butter; extra-virgin olive oil; salt; pepper; oregano; rosemary.
Instructions – Meat marinade
Start 12 or, preferably, 24 hours prior to the intended moment of the meal. Wash the meat, cut it in large boneless chunks eliminating all the fat. Wash and chop, this time in tiny pieces, all the carrots and also one of the onions and the garlic (go easy with it: one slice will suffice). Put all the vegetables and meat in a large bowl, ad a sprinkle of oil, spices, salt and then pour the beer or wine. The meat should be completely submersed in the liquid; if this isn’t the case, well, you shouldn’t have gulped down those two sips of beer! (yes, I saw you). Anyhow, cover with a film and leave to rest for a day.
Instruction – Meat
Drain the meat and vegetables, but don’t throw away the beer, we’ll need it! and don’t drink it either. Separate the meat from the veggies. Cut the other onion, the one we didn’t put in the marinade, and fry in a tablespoon’s worth of olive oil until it becomes golden. Remove from fire and take the onion out; we’ll add it back later, but in the meanwhile we don’t want it to go dark and bitter. Pour the meat in the oil and give it a quick fry on a lively fire. Add the vegetables from the marinade and the cooked onion and roast everything together, mixing frequently, for about 5 minutes. Before it goes too dry add the liquid from the marinade, lower the fire’s intensity to moderate, cover with a lid and leave to cook for about 40 to 50 minutes. Prod the meat with a cocktail stick to assess how ready it is. Personally, I like it quite tender.
Once the meat has reached the desired point, remove it from the pan. Retrieve the remaining veggies and juices and blend them together until you have a thick sauce with which to cover the meat. You can use some to add flavour to the broth, if you want.
Instructions – Potatoes
This is the easiest part of the meal, but it’s also the easiest to mess up. Wash your Kurodas carefully, removing all traces of dirt, the reason being that we won’t be peeling them. Cut them in pieces about 1.5 cm long, with at least one side with its skin. Put in a large pot with water and set to boil; once the water has reached boiling point wait for about 4 minutes and then drain. Kurodas resist very well to boiling without going soggy and having the skin will help them so, as well as giving a particular crispiness once cooked.
Now, cooking. Put a large piece of butter in a non-stick pan, such as a ceramic one, and melt on a high fire. As soon as it is add the potatoes, salt and spices. Roll the potatoes so that they are covered in butter and allow them to roast on one side before rolling them again. Add a little broth and let dissipate over the fire. Continue for around 15 minutes.
Finally, add the meat to the potatoes and enjoy!