Braised Rabbit with Olives, Homemade Egg Noodles, and Kitchen Psychology

February 10, 2011
By Holly Jennings

You’ve never made homemade noodles before, and you forgot to pick up dried egg noodles at the store as a back-up. You’re intuitive about all things savory, and the cooking techniques associated with them—braising, sautéing, stewing, roasting, poaching. When it comes to baking and dough in general, you’re less certain. So in your nervousness, coupled with a tendency toward perfectionism (bad combination), you follow the noodle directions to the letter, leaving your commonsense at the kitchen door. After rolling out the dough until it is paper-thin, you roll it up into a scroll, cut it into ¼-inch sections, and then place the pinwheels on a cornmeal-dusted tray as directed, where they are to dry for at least one half-hour before boiling. Then, three hours later, when it’s close to dinner time, you begin to unroll the noodles. You discover that the dough has become quite comfortable as a wheel and doesn’t want to budge. With patience you get most of them unrolled, though you do end up with some broken or double lengths and a few wheels.

This is what I found myself doing one Saturday last month, just as our guests Melanie and Matt were to arrive. If only the cookbook author had said to unroll the pinwheels of dough before placing them on the tray to dry. But, after all, it’s impossible to account for the strengths and weaknesses of every home cook. And this is how you learn, I thought, and become familiar with and eventually intuitive about a new cooking terrain. (The whole episode reminded me, appropriately enough, of a book my mother used to read to me when I was small called The Noodle-head Epaminondas. It is about a boy who followed directions to the letter, but didn’t have commonsense to apply them to the right context.)

No matter. The egg noodles—hilopittes in Greek—and the rest of the dishes I made from the DCCC pick, The Food and Wine of Greece by Diane Kochilas, including several meze options and the main course, Braised Rabbit with Olives, were delicious and, even with the small hiccup with the noodles, came together effortlessly and quickly. And who cares if some noodles are shorter or thicker than others when you’re among friends? We served one of the best red wines I’ve had in a long time: a wonderfully dry and full-bodied yet smooth red wine from Nemea in the Peloponnese. While it’s not the wine the author recommends for the rabbit dish—she recommends a red from Náoussa, a region in Macedonia—it is the only Greek red wine that my local wine shop was able to procure. As an introduction to the wine of Greece, it made a very good impression, and we enjoyed it with the rabbit. Dessert was my boyfriend’s tarte tatin served à la mode Greek-style—with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt.