Harvest Kitchen Series: Loaded Rabbit Nachos
Like most readers, I’m not a master chef — just a guy who loves to hunt, fish, and eat what he harvests. If success afield and family schedule allows, this series will highlight a new game or fish dish each month. I’ll cover all the details from take to table, and everyone will benefit with a collection of easy, everyday meals harvested from nature’s pantry and celebrated in the home kitchen.
Nothing rekindles nostalgic memories like an after-school small game hunt. That’s why I was so excited to take my son out for small game as part of the mentored youth hunting program this year.
We have certainly put in our time afield, trying for squirrels with my .22-caliber air gun on multiple occasions. He’s gotten some shots but has yet to connect on one of the always-in-motion bushytails amid the dense brush and fall foliage. I was hoping the evening of election day might fare differently, even if the shorter daylight window kept our hunt brief.
We donned our safety orange, grabbed our licenses and headed out to give it another try. I carried the air rifle and BOG field pod — which is awesome for resting and balancing the gun at the time of the shot for a small-framed shooter. My boy kept a watchful eye as we quietly stalked through our hunting area.
We saw a few squirrels that didn’t offer any clean shots and were able to observe a deer calmly feeding in the distance. As the sun began to sink lower, I thought we might have some success sneaking along the brush line in search of cottontails.
We spotted two bunnies in a little clearing that bounced into the thick cover before we could get set up for a shot but continuing further, we came upon another that held tight right at the edge long enough for me to set up the shooting rest. I carefully talked my son through getting the rabbit lined up in the crosshairs, clicked off the safety, and watched as he made a perfect head shot that dropped it where it sat.
His very first cottontail made for an awesome shared memory together and took me right back to the sheer excitement of my own first few years in the field. What a special hunt!
I skinned, cleaned and quartered the rabbit, being sure to thoroughly rinse all parts of the flesh before giving it an overnight soak in salt water. In the morning before work, I drained and rinsed the meat and dropped it into a crock pot for hassle-free deboning. I simply poured in enough water to cover the carcass, dropped in two cloves of garlic, shook on some crushed bay leaves and a little no-salt seasoning blend.
The slow cooker ran on low while I was at work all day, and upon returning home to a glorious aroma, I knew it was ready for shredding. I easily pulled the meat from the bone and strained the liquid to save and freeze the stock for future meals.
The meat went into a deep frying pan, to which I added a packet of Old El Paso chorizo seasoning and two-thirds cup of water, heated it to a boil, and allowed it to steam off until thickened.
Then I spread a whole bag of tortilla chips on a baking sheet, added some homemade salsa, layered on the cooked seasoned rabbit meat, tossed some pickled jalapeños on one side and sprinkled a liberal portion of shredded cheddar cheese over everything to top things off. This got baked in the oven at 400-degrees for about 10 minutes until all was gooey and melted.
The Table Takeaway
This was an incredibly easy, yet satisfying way to use up just one rabbit, which otherwise might not have been quite enough to feed a family of four. Sure, I could’ve easily made it into a soup or stew, but I was hungry for loaded nachos, and this turned out excellent.
If I had them on hand, I would’ve loved to add some black olives and sour cream to help balance the heat of the peppers, but it turned out we didn’t have any in the fridge like I previously thought. No worries — the perfect blend of meat, cheese, salsa and chips was delicious just the same, and I was happy our entire family could enjoy a tasty meal to celebrate my son’s first cottontail harvest.
Good shooting, kid! We are so very proud!