Monday, January 25, 2016

Braised Rabbit

Before I start, I know that some of you reading are turning up your nose at the idea of eating rabbit, even if you've never even tried it. You may be vegetarian, and if so, you get a pass.
 But for those of you who think nothing of scarfing down a prosciutto sandwich or a porterhouse steak, eating rabbit is no different from eating other animals that are killed for your dining pleasure. In fact, it's much more eco-friendly since it requires less energy to raise, and produces less waste.
Aside from the ecological benefits, rabbit contains the least amount of fat and calories than other meats, is almost cholesterol free and tastes great. Contrary to what a lot of people think, there's quite a lot of meat on a rabbit in relationship to bone, and it does not have a "gamey" flavor. Much of it is like eating white meat chicken, only tastier.
So step outside your comfort zone and try cooking rabbit, using this recipe loosely adapted from the book "Blue Plate Special" by Kate Christensen. It was my book group's selection for January, and we always accompany our discussions with a dinner using food that's mentioned in the book. 
Depending on where you live, it may be hard to find fresh rabbit. I live not far from an Amish market that stocks it regularly. But so does my supermarket. Last week I called ahead to order two of them since I was planning to make it for the book group dinner and didn't want to risk their not having any in the meat case the day I needed it.
Here's what it looks like before it's cut into pieces. You can ask the butcher to do that for you -- a task I recommend since it's hard cutting through the bones. See that bit of liver hanging out? Don't throw it away. I'll come back to it at the end.
I ordered two rabbits and used two pans to cook them. One rabbit will feed about four people, assuming you have side dishes and a starch. 
This is one of the pots I used and it holds one rabbit beautifully. The pot is probably at least 65 years old and belonged to my mother. It's perfect for braises, stews and even for baking upside down cakes. Browning the rabbit at high heat means your pan will look pretty messy, but this, and my other pot below, clean up spic and span.
Simultaneously, I cooked another rabbit in this enamel coated cast iron pan - very heavy but it cooks very evenly. 
With all the other food that was prepared by other book group members to accompany the rabbit, there were plenty of leftovers for me to take home, and reheat for dinner another night with freshly made polenta and herbs. This recipe would also be delicious served with buttered noodles of some sort, as suggested by the book.
Lentils and rabbit are also a match made in heaven and I made this dish of roasted rabbit, lentils and chestnuts a couple of months ago, trying to duplicate a delicious meal I ate last fall at a restaurant tucked away in the hills of Liguria, Italy. If you're interested in this rabbit recipe, send me an email and I'll be happy to send it to you. The lentils recipe is from Joe Cicala, chef at Le Virtù and Brigantessa in Philadelphia, and I posted it a few years ago (along with his rabbit recipe) here.
And remember that rabbit liver I told you to save at the top of this post?
Joe also gave me a great idea of what to do with it. 
Chop it up with some shallots and sauté it in some butter, he said, then season with some fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Serve it on toasted bread and drizzle it with a balsamic glaze and you've got perfect crostini to drink with your pre-dinner glass of wine.
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Braised Rabbit
Adapted from the book "Blue Plate Special" by Kate Christensen
printable recipe here

1 rabbit (about 2.5 to 3 lbs.)
4 slices of thickly sliced pancetta (about 1/8" thick), cut into bits
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup water
minced parsley
thyme, rosemary, bay leaf
salt, pepper
fresh parsley, minced

Chop the rabbit into pieces. Fry the pancetta in 1 T. of the olive oil until crisp and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside and resist the temptation to munch on them (ok, have a few bits).
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until translucent. Remove from the pan. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, sauté the rabbit in the oil on high heat, until the pieces turn golden brown. Sprinkle with the flour and sauté for a few more minutes, turning. The pan will look a mess, but don't worry. All that brown stuff on the bottom with help flavor the sauce and loosens once you add the liquid. Remove the rabbit from the pan and set aside. Add the beef broth and the wine in the pan, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Put the onions and rabbit back into the pan, add the herbs and some of the water. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, adding more water if the sauce gets too thick. Just before serving, sprinkle with the reserved pancetta bits and minced parsley.
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Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That braised rabbit looks ever so scrumptious and flavourful! A magnificent dish.



Stacey Snacks said...

What a gorgeous post.....and I love your mother's pot.

I have never cooked a rabbit, I order in France a lot, but they are never this large and meaty.
The polenta with the braised rabbit is making me hungry at 9 am!


Faith Bahadurian said...

Nice, love rabbit but haven't prepared it myself in ages.

italianhomecooking said...

hi everyone, this is Stefano, an Italian cook now living in London...

here in London farmed rabbits are rather difficult to find and when u see them (generally French) they are rather expensive (up to 15 o more pounds for a rabbit feeding 3 people). Do u get a better deal in the US?
Wild rabbits are plenty but they vary very much in flavor, of course - from very gamey (read: almost inedible) to good they are generally rather small, though.
When I had a restaurant in Lyme Regis, Dorset (deep English country side), we tried few times to have rabbit on the menu but the majority of British people just would not buy it.

I am Italian and I love it. Italy is a major producer or rabbits and one could find them very easily, even at supermarkets. However, it must also be said that there is growing concern about the way rabbits are reared. Few months ago there was a new report about the awful and cruel conditions they are often reared. I am not vegetarian, by the way. I am just passing some information. Here there are some rather disturbing images from one of Italy's leading newspaper (Corriere della Sera)

now many people are asking for rabbit meat to be banned, which I think it is nonsense. The point is to regulate how animals are reared and killed, I think. If we kill animals to eat them, I feel we should treat them well and honor them with a good life and a good death.

Of course, one can also buy excellent quality, humanely reared rabbits, like the Slow Food protected Grigio di Carmagnola:
(very expensive, I must add)

how are u doing in the US: do u have good sources? is it easy to find them?

I am not octogenarian, but I remember that when I was a kid in the early Seventies, we could buy rabbits from one of my neighbors, the one who provided us also with eggs.. and I was not born in some idyllic parts of rural Italy but on the outskirts of industrial Milano.

Should u find a "good rabbit", I do encourage u to try, it makes a wonderful meal. Hazan has one of the simplest and most delicious rabbit recipes I have ever seen in Essentials (basically you mix everything together and let it cook: no browning, no hassle).
thanks for this lovely post Linda
stefano (Italian, cook, living in London)

Marisa Franca @ Allourway said...

First of all I want to say I sure would love to belong to your book club!! How much fun to read a story and then for the discussion bring the dishes. I really haven't looked for rabbit so I can't say I can find it or not. I know my brother used to hunt them a long time ago and my mamma would fix them for my papà. Now, if hunting were allowed in our town, I could supply many people with not only deer but rabbit as well. It seems they don't have any natural predators. Dogs must be restrained and all of the other critters go wild including squirrel, chipmunks and skunks. :-( I will make it a point to look for rabbit when we go back north -- I"m pinning the recipe. It really sound delicious.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

It's been years since I've tasted rabbit and here, we never see it offered in the meat department of the stores. Your book club is very lucky, indeed!

AdriBarr said...

I have never tasted rabbit. You know me, Adri the timid eater! This really does sound delicious though, and I love all of your photos. I have not seen rabbit in our supermarkets here in LA, but we have three absolutely magnificent butcher shops here that, I bet, do carry it. I just love "winter food", don't you?

Rosemary Wolbert said...

My sister (an excellent cook) has a wonderful collection of unique bunny rabbits, tastefully srpinkled throughout her house. As much as we swap recipes and share our cooking successes (or not) I know this is one dish I cannot even think of making for her. I have only ordered rabbit at a restaurant, and it was delicious. However, in my neck of the woods -- maybe redneck of the woods -- "game feeds" are a very popular winter party. Come the end of Febraury, I know I'll be sampling a variety of meats, well prepared by seasoned small game hunters. Shall I share your recipe? I shall!

Chiara Giglio said...

il coniglio non è molto apprezzato qui, si trovano poche ricette ed è un peccato perchè, secondo me, è buono e leggero ! Prendo nota delle tue ricette, hanno un aspetto molto stuzzicante Linda,ciao, a presto !

Claudia said...

I do love this recipe and the idea of it. Cute Disney animation has skewered my ability to eat Peter Rabbit and Thumper (that and the fact that we've been nurturing "Bunny!" in our backyard for a year - don't ask me why). My Uncle Emil kept rabbits in New Jersey. We would go and play with them. It was years before I realized what they were for ... what can I say? I love the looks of it and somehow - won't. Paul would though!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I've only had rabbit once in a restaurant, I must admit I was squeamish thinking it was "gamey" but I wasn't at all, you described the taste perfectly, in fact it was very mild tasting to me. Love your photos!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I've made rabbit many times! There was a restaurnart we frequented in Brooklyn Heights called "Noodle Pudding" that specialized in serving rabbit!I know the name does not sound Italian but the owner was from Ischia, where rabbit is very popular and plentiful.

I've only found it in one place here in the west and it was $22 a pound! Meanwhile, ironically, I have dozens of wild rabbits running around my yard!

What a nice treasure to have your Mother's pot! It looks very pretty as well as useful!

Frank Fariello said...

Yes, rabbit is a "controversial" meat for many people, but I love it. And this rendition looks like just the ticket for the cold winter's nights we've been having.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

My family literally survived on rabbit in the mountains of Modena, Emilia-Romagna prior to their emmigration to America . . . which helped prevent their starvation along with the chestnuts. My family never prepared rabbit upon arrival in America, nor ever ate chestnuts again either . . . each a vivid reminder of their extreme poverty and survival methods. Both of those need to come to a halt in my life and my kitchen, for I'm sure that rabbit is another delicious element of 'cucina povera'. I need to try rabbit and truthfully have no issue in consuming them (as wild game) for food. When and if I can find where to get rabbit, I will certainly try your recipe, Linda. Thank you for sharing!

Debby Foodiewife said...

My mother used to cook rabbit for us all the time, when I was a kid. I admit, I had visions of eating a cute little bunny and felt bad about it. But, I am a carnivore and I shouldn't shun the idea. I just don't see it where I live, but I'd definitely try this dish. Your presentation of the dish is gorgeous. I'd love to have been a guest the night you served it.

janie said...

I love rabbit and have only ever eaten it in Italy. I should order some from a butcher and try your recipe. I've been making a wonderful dish for years with a recipe from Lynne Kasper which calls for rabbit and fennel and I've been substituting chicken thighs.