An old fashioned Belgian country stew with unexpected nuances from the Brabant countryside. Belgium's province of Brabant is most famous for its, and the country's, capitol -- Brussels. The dish calls for the beer that can be made only in Brussels and its surrounds -- Gueuze. Snappy tart, almost sour, Gueuze is as much a part of brussels culture as its famous Grande Place. You'll find imported Gueuze in liquor shops, or use a tart, but full bodied ale. Rabbit is traditional here, but chicken can be substituted. Do try to use organic, free range, antibiotic and hormone free ingredients if at all possible. The braise could be done a day ahead, just undercook it slightly the first time around. Serve with steamed potatoes. whatever beer you cook with, that's the beer to drink with the braise.
16 ounces Belgian Gueuze beer, or Orval, Trappist, or full bodied tart ale.
8 juniper berries, bruised
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves, broken
4 pounds of cut up rabbit, or skinned chicken
3 tablespoons fat from salt pork, or cold pressed vegetable oil
about 1/2 cup flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large onions, chopped
about 2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup coarsely chopped pitted prunes, soaked in hot water 30 minutes
A day before cooking combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate 24 hours.
The next day drain the meat, saving the marinade, and pat it dry. Lightly coat pieces with flour. Heat the fat or oil in a 12-inch saute pan over medium high. Slowly brown the meat pieces in 2 batches (so pieces don't touch) until golden on all sides. Watch the heat, taking care not to burn the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper as it cooks. Remove from the pan.
Stir in the onions and herbs from the marinade. Cook until onions are soft. Stir in 1/4 of the marinade and reduce to nothing. Do the same with a 1/2 cup of stock.
Put meat back in the pan, turning to coat with the onions. Add the rest of the marinade and stock. Bring to a very gentle simmer, partially cover, and cook about 45 minutes, or until meat is tender (if breasts cook faster, remove them from the pan once they're done).
After 30 minutes, stir in drained prunes to the pan. Once meat is tender, remove it to a heated platter. Taste sauce for rich, full flavor. If it's weak-kneed, boil down for a few minutes. Either way, stir in the jelly and vinegar, boil 2 minutes and pour over the meat. Serve hot with steamed red-skinned potatoes or Yellow Finns.
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