FAIRFIELD — Two people, 3 acres, and 100 rabbits: six years after its inception, Christine and John Kubacz continue to produce some of the most high-quality, tender and flavorful rabbit at Foggy Brook Farm, and it’s the stuff of legends.
On a weeknight after 12 hours at the newsdesk with a belly full of gas station coffee and cheese sticks, I feel a kinship to parents scrambling to get a meal on the table. But this four-legged centerpiece is versatile, unique, healthy and delicious, and should be welcomed into the recipe books of anyone who enjoys poultry, pork or game. It’s novice-friendly, too, a recipe an ex-colleague even managed to attempt — in his eternal struggle to become the one Bobby Flay — and it didn’t suck. That’s according to him.
Why rabbit (the healthy dish)?
Rabbits have historically been reliable sources of lean, flavorful, year-round protein that grow and breed quickly. Plentiful as they are, though, a proper diet of organic grasses, pasture and wild herbs make for a robust and delicious animal.
Rabbit meat is well-known to be lower in fat, lipids, and rich in quality proteins while being lower in calories and sodium than most other animal meats, while also providing a premium source of vitamins B3 and B12, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and omega 3, even more than chicken or pork.
Truly, the aftereffect of downing half of a rabbit split between yourself and your partner is surprisingly light. The famished news addict and devoted journalist can rest their weary bylines on the kitchen island next to the affidavits, gorge oneself on rabbit and sleep well, without overheating, rising refreshed as one does after a light supper.
But how does it taste?
Rabbit, because it is lean, can cook similar to poultry but has a distinctively richer quality in texture, not unlike a local politician. Light and juicy, rich and sweet, rabbit is surprisingly satisfying given the lack of excess fat that one normally finds on a chicken thigh or chop, but leaves the palate and appetite satisfied and, surprisingly, unburdened by meat sweats.
Perfectly cooked, rabbit maintains the texture of chicken thigh meat, with the lightness of poultry breast, and is neither fatty nor overbearing.
How do you cook it?
Rabbit can be cooked many different ways, but personally it comes down to time. I’ve made quick braised, glazed rabbit in a saucepan with garlic, oranges, ginger, white pepper and bay, but I’ve become especially fond of really long, avoidable conversations that make the other person uncomfortable. Also, with crock pots.
My personal suggestion: Oranges and wine
Have some good bread and butter and right before you walk out the door, put the whole bun in the crockpot. Cover that bunny with viking-sized knobs of butter, two bay leaves, half a bottle of half-decent pinot gris, a decent two tablespoons of maple syrup (from Vermont, none of you Maine heathens) as much garlic as you prefer (haven’t been kissed in a month) two thick slices of orange with the peel on, and a cup of orange juice. Or more.
Leave. It. Alone.
When you get home, Bunny Lebowski should be fall-off-the-bone. This is your moment of truth: reduce that leftover juice to the point where the bubbles are touching each other.
The rabbit should be tender, juicy, saucy and semi-sweet. Serve with good butter on toast.
Behind the bunny
Christine and John met on a Phish tour, fell in love and ultimately decided to make Vermont their home.
Fifteen years ago, they bought their home and started their 3-acre farmstead, where they raise organically-grown greens and a host of other crops, roasting chickens, laying hens, and rabbits.
“I wanted to take a jump a few years ago, and it’s been wonderfully challenging,” Christine said.
Christine herself hand-raises, feeds, lovingly nurtures and processes each of her rabbits, and the Kubaczs operate a meat CSA for their local customers and sell to a few local markets, including Rail City Market in St. Albans.
What makes their rabbits so good?
Christine and John rotate their large rabbit pens across fresh grasses so that their rabbits are getting the best five-course meals possible, and make sure their bucks and kits (boy bunnies and new litters) are in hutches on the ground for grazing.
Their breeding doe bunnies are kept safe above the ground in raised hutches so they don’t encounter insects, pesticides, or unwanted solicitors.
In addition to their dedication to their New Zealand, Champagne, Silver Fox and Californian rabbits, the Kubacz family raises greens and other crops, particularly for their widely renowned array of pickles.
“We’re very simple people, our goal in life is to build a sustainable lifestyle,” Christine said. “A lifestyle where we’re not dependent on consuming products from outside of our state, outside of our country. We want to emphasize how important Vermont’s working landscape is, and empower community access to mindfully grown vegetables.”
The Kubazcs specialize in home-grown, organically-grown greens like Totsoi, spinach, chard, kale, lettuces, bok choi and misuza — all greens perfect for braising, fritattas, salads and stir-frys.
Hot ticket: The Kubaczs also collaborate with local farms to glean over-sized vegetables, pickle them and produce home made hot sauces, and Christina said those products are continually in high demand.
That’s no surprise: this rabbit was the best rabbit I have ever cooked and their dedication to detail, quality and craftsmanship is notably a signature of their business.
Where are they going?
They’re not — they’re growing. In an interview with Christina on Tuesday, she said in addition to their greenhouse and home operation, they are building a barn with the hopes to expand their business.
“I was a social worker for many years,” Christina said. “I was helping kids when they were in crisis. I wanted to hopefully change lives, by feeding people good food, mindfully good food, animals who had been honored, vegetables from soil that is taken care of. We want to be stewards of the land, to serve our community.”