Known for its brunch, which features a biscuit station and decadent pastries, Willa Jean in New Orleans has quickly become a staple among the dining community. However, those in the know are also drawn to the restaurant in the evening to feast on Chef Kelly Fields’ interpretations of Southern staples. With her eye on supper, Chef Fields has recently added Ham + Potato Croquettes, Rabbit Pot Pie and Chicken + Rice & Gravy to the menu. She shared her Rabbit Pot Pie recipe with us and it includes a roux, so most Southerners should be up for the challenge.
For Rabbit Braise:
2 rabbits (approximately 2 lbs. each)
2.5 quarts chicken stock
Leek tops (see below)
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 celery stalks, cut into 4 pieces
2 medium carrots, cut into 4 pieces
5 bay leaves
Roux and Gravy:
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 garlic cloves, minced
4 leeks, cleaned and small diced
6 medium carrots, peeled and diced medium
3 cups of fresh peas
3 lbs. cremini mushrooms
1⁄4 cup chopped thyme
3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups butter, cubed and cold
1/9 Tbsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. sugar
1⁄2 tsp. white vinegar
1⁄4 cup ice water
2 Tbsp. milk
1 pinch of salt
To braise the rabbit, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place rabbits, chicken stock, veggies and sherry wine in 4-inch deep pan or dutch oven. Cover with parchment paper and foil or lid if you are using a dutch oven. Cook for 2
hours, flipping rabbits halfway through or until completely tender and falling off the bone.
Remove from oven and carefully remove rabbits from drippings. Strain and reserve drippings for roux. Remove meat from bones (this should be fairly easy).
While the rabbits are braising in the oven, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add in cold butter cubes all at once, mix on low to medium speed until texture is crumbly.
Slowly stream in ice water and vinegar until mixture just comes together, careful not to overmix. Dough should not be so wet or dry that it’s falling apart. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until use. This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time.
For the roux, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once completely melted, add flour in a few additions, whisking constantly. Stir until peanut butter texture, about 5-7 minutes.
Add chicken stock, heavy cream and chopped thyme. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until sauce reached a thick gravy consistency. This can be done up to three days ahead of time and stored in a dry, airtight container in the fridge.
To roast the vegetables, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Season diced carrots and mushrooms in oil with salt and pepper and roast on a baking
sheet for 10-15 minutes or until tender and golden. Set aside.
With the oven still set at 375 degrees, cook leeks in a large sauté pan for about 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or until aromatic. Once cooked, combine leeks, carrots, mushroom, and cold peas and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the rabbit, vegetable filling and gravy and place into a large casserole dish. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and flour a clean surface for rolling. Begin rolling out the pie crust evenly in an oval shape or closest shape to the casserole dish you will
be using. Roll out to a 1⁄4-inch thickness.
Place the dough over the casserole dish with the filling in it. Tuck the ends of the dough under so the excess is inside the dish. Crimp the ends inward forming the pie look and shape. Once complete, make six, 2-inch long slices in the dough creating ventilation to avoid a soggy crust.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and salt for egg wash. With a brush, lightly apply the egg wash to the dough shell, making sure to coat every surface in an even light layer. Too heavy of a wash can cause it to get very dark and or soggy on top.
Cook the pie at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until the pie is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
Recipe and photo by Randy Schmidt courtesy of Willa Jean.