Rabbit Parmo fingers.
Now, I’m no cook, in fact I call myself the culinary delinquent when I do my rabbit butchery and cooking demonstrations across the country. When it comes to telling the difference between a soufflé and a scrambled egg, I struggle as its not my gig but I get by and survive , however I know my rabbits.
I have now moved back to my native North Yorkshire. A plethora of local intricacies, amazing characters, a landscape to treasure and not an excuse in the world not to relax, eat well and exercise.
Born and bred in Middlesbrough, my sabbatical to the East made me realise very quickly how different we are wired up North and how each vernacular dish, saying or design is no secret but in the same breathe, to many they are.
Ask anyone outside of the north eastern triangle surrounding Middlesbrough about a Parmo, and they will look at you as if you’re talking Swahili. The furthest south I’ve found one is York. The Boro’s signature dish is as engrained in their local culture much as the pork pie is in Melton Mowbray’s. To the uninitiated a Parmo is traditionally made up of a tenderised chicken breast, which is then dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It’s then covered in a white sauce and finally topped in cheese, which is then melted under the grill. If your counting the calories, possibly not the best choice but like any recipe, it can be altered to become healthier. This delicacy is the areas version of a kebab in terms of that it is often consumed after a night out on the town or after a few drinks.
Human nature dictates that someone, somewhere at sometime will dispute the originality of something, who invented it and when/where did it start. After much debate and research into just who invented this dish, and how it ended up in Middlesbrough, I have come to the conclusion that the creator of the Parmo was a former soldier called Nicos Harris. Nicos owned The American Grill on the towns Linthorpe Road, and in 1958 developed what was, and still is known as the Parmo.
Being born and bred in the area, and being au fait with the dish, I decided to try put my twist on it by marrying a cultural local dish with some freshly harvested wild rabbits. enter Rabbit Parmo Fingers as I like to call it.
The simplicity of this dish makes it so appealing and because I use the saddles(hence the name ‘fingers’) you can use these as snack or add a side dish and have it as a main meal. Personally, I prefer them cold the day after but I guess I am alone in that particular taste. (Here I have to hide them so they survive to the next day!)
The first time I tried these was after a days hunting with some friends flying their Harris hawks over my ferrets. Kirst and Ben had travelled up from Wiltshire and along with Ben and Becca, we had a fantastic day out. Enjoying ourselves whilst creating some content for a Shooting Times piece as well as harvesting some rabbits to feed not only ourselves but everybody’s birds of prey’s as well as my ferrets.
The ingredients are as follows but please remember as the rabbit is wild, they are not graded like our domestically produced meat so a little give and take will have to be taken with not only the contents but the cooking as well.
8 rabbit saddles(loins)
Plain flour (for dredging)
1 egg + a splash of milk (for dredging)
Any natural breadcrumbs
rapeseed oil (for frying)
200g Mature Red Leicester or coloured Cheddar (grated)
For the béchamel
55g plain flour
1 pint (568ml) milk
Salt, pepper and other seasonings
Within the butchery process, remove the saddles from each rabbits and then remove the sinew(silver skin), and if stored in a fridge ensure that you take the meat out of the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature (at least half an hour). Then start by making the béchamel:
Melt 25g butter in a saucepan and gradually sift in 25g of flour over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Once all the flour is added, the mixture should resemble a thick paste, and should come away from the sides of the pan as you stir. Cook like this over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the milk a little at a time while stirring. If it is a bit lumpy you could use a whisk instead. Cook for another 10-12 mins, constantly stirring. The sauce should reach the ribbon stage. Season to taste and then put it to one side and cover surface of sauce with baking parchment or cling film to avoid a skin forming.
Now for the rabbit:
Ensure any sinew has been removed and place on a chopping board under a sheet of cling film. Bash out each fillet with a tenderising mallet (or rolling pin, great fun but don’t get carried away like I did). Aim to get an even thickness of about three quarters of an inch. (How much you tenderise will depend on the age of the rabbit and the size of the cut.)
Dredge the meat which is basically covering the rabbit in flour, then soaking it in egg and then covering it evenly with breadcrumbs. I repeated this until all 8 were ready for frying.
I added the rapeseed oil into a large frying pan to a depth of roughly 1 inch whilst remembering to switch the hob on. Once the oil reached its optimal temperature (it sizzles if you drop some of the rabbit in), I placed all 8 saddles in the large pan and cooked it for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Just enough until the breadcrumbs had turned golden but not too much as to over cook the rabbit. As they have another session in the oven next you don’t want to overcook them.
I then placed the fillets into a preheated oven at 180C for 6-8 minutes to finish them off. (All times are approx. due to fluctuation in size of rabbit loins) and check the rabbit is cooked through.
Once out of the oven I lathered a generous layer of béchamel sauce over the golden breaded rabbit on one side, sprinkle some grated cheese over the sauce and placed it under the grill until the cheese melted.
You can then season to suit your particular taste and serve with chips and salad or coleslaw, its entirely up to you.
Parmos are traditionally accompanied by garlic or chilli sauce to dip in them in, and although ketchup is often frowned upon by the Parmo purist, I love the stuff so its fine by me.
If you are on a health kick and watching your calorific intake you can always make a healthier version using low fat creme fraiche instead of béchamel sauce, gluten-free breadcrumbs, and top it off with a low fat cheese.