Gabrielle Hamilton’s Braised Rabbit


Rabbit is a tricky thing to cook. Braising is the usual method — something that always always puzzles me as rabbit is very lean, and there really isn’t any tough connective tissue to break down by slow, low cooking.

Shorts ribs, it is definitely not.

I also have this sad tendency to slightly overcook my rabbit, leaving the meat a little on the tough side. It’s as if the bunny was tensing up in order to leap out of the pot to give me the finger.

But when I tried Gabrielle Hamilton’s recipe for braised rabbit published in the New York Time a few weeks ago, the dish turned out like a dream.

I didn’t actually have the 8 hind legs called for in the recipe, just one rabbit that I had butchered myself into 6 pieces. If you have never broken down a whole rabbit before, here is a good step-by-step tutorial from Saveur. If I were to do it again, I might butcher two rabbits — leaving me with a nice mess of fore and hind legs — and save the loins and saddles for another dish calling for rolling and stuffing.

Ingredients:

1 rabbit (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into 6 pieces

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

4 large shallots, thinly sliced

1/3 of a cup of cornichons, halved

1/4 of a cup or cornichon brine

3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

3-4 cups of chicken stock

4 tablespoons of butter, cut into cubes

1/3 of a cup of Italian parsley, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Season the rabbit pieces liberally with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy Dutch oven, heat the two tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it starts to shimmer. Sear the rabbit pieces on both sides. Transfer the browned pieces to a plate.

3. Lower the heat to medium. In the same pan, sauté the shallots until they are tender but not browned. Add the cornichons, brine, and vinegar. Bring everything up to a simmer. Return the rabbit pieces and any accumulated juices to the pan, spreading the rabbit out as evenly as you can over the bottom. Add just enough chicken stock so that the rabbit pieces are covered by about 1/2 inch of liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn off the heat.

4. Cover the pan and bake until the rabbit is tender, about 45 minutes. The next time I do this, I might use a meat thermometer. Rabbit should be done at 135° – 140°. The recipe says that if you can easily bend the leg at the joint, your bunny is done.

5. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the rabbit pieces to a plate. Keep the pieces warm while you finish the sauce. Return the pan to the stove top and boil the liquid until the sauce has been reduced by about half. Whisk in the cubes of butter one at a time. The sauce should be nice and glossy. Add the rabbit back to the pan to just reheat it. Before serving, stir in the parsley. 

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Oven-Roasted Rabbit with Mustard Sauce


2011.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar has this year marked at The Year of the Rabbit. I do love rabbits (cute and delicious) and like the idea of marking the occasion with a very Burgundian kind of dish, a nice marriage of my French culinary inclinations and my family heritage.

If you have never butchered a rabbit before, I urge you to get yourself a whole one and give it a go. You can watch a good how-to video featuring Marlow and Sons‘s Sean Rembold, or you can follow this pretty good step-by-step from Saveur here.

Or you can have your butcher do it. That’s probably the easiest thing.

Or, you can substitute a nice chicken for the rabbit. Chicken goes marvelously well with this sauce too.

The sauce is amazing. Really, really great. Especially if you get yourself some very excellent pancetta, sliced very thinly (I love La Quercia). If you roast or boil some potatoes to sop up the extra creaminess, you won’t regret it.

This recipe I think originally came from Chez Panisse. You have a little flexibility with the proportions depending on how mustardy you want it.

Ingredients:

One whole rabbit or chicken cut into pieces

Between 3/4 to 1 cup of crème fraîche

Between 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of good quality Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh sage

3 ounces of thinly sliced pancetta, cut into thin strips

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 bay leaves

About a cup of chicken stock or white wine

About 1/2 cup of heavy cream

Salt and pepper

How to prepare:

1. In a large bowl, cover the rabbit or chicken with all of the ingredients except for the chicken stock or white wine, and the heavy cream. Using your hands, mix everything together, making sure that all of the rabbit or chicken pieces are evenly coated. Cover the bowl and let everything sit at room temperature for about an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Preheat your oven to 350°. After the rabbit or chicken has marinated for about an hour, spread the pieces out in a single layer on the bottom of a large cast-iron pan. Top the pieces with any remaining marinade. Roast the rabbit or chicken in the oven until they are cooked through, about 45 minutes.* If your rabbit or chicken is small, you might want to check it a little earlier.

3. Transfer the cooked rabbit or chicken pieces to a serving dish while you finish the sauce. Put the cast-iron pan on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock or white wine. Using a wooden spoon or a flat whisk, incorporate the added liquid to the sauce and pan juices. Add the heavy cream. Lower the heat so that the sauce is at a good simmer and reduce the sauce until it is thick and creamy. Adjust the seasoning* and pour it over the rabbit and chicken pieces. Serve immediately.

Notes:

If the rabbit or chicken appears to be drying out in the cooking, add some stock or white wine to the pan.

As the mustard and pancetta add a good amount of salt themselves, adjust the seasoning at the end so that the dish doesn’t end up over-salted.