28 March 2016

Cooking rabbit in springtime

If you don't live in France, you probably don't cook or eat rabbit very often — if at all. It's a standard item in France, the way duck is. Over here, people don't just eat chicken and turkey, but also guinea fowl and pheasant and quail. And rabbit.

We cooked our lapin de Pâques yesterday. Walt and I have been cooking rabbit at Easter for more than 30 years now. It all started two or three years after we met back in 1981 in Paris. In 1982 we went back to live in the U.S., in Washington DC.

Here you can see the two "saddle" or filet sections on the left, and the liver and thigh sections toward the top.

Then in 1984 or 1985, Easter rolled around and there were pictures and stories about Easter bunnies all around us. That reminded us that we had really enjoyed having rabbit for dinner in restaurants when we lived in Paris. I went on a search and actually found rabbit in a market (maybe Eastern Market?) or supermarket in the DC area. I don't remember where exactly.

So we started our own "tradition" of cooking rabbit every year for our Easter dinner. Yesterday was no exception. On Saturday I went to the open-air market in Saint-Aignan and bought a nice locally raised rabbit, all prepared for cooking. All I had to do was cut it up. Basically, you get two big fat back leg-thigh sections, two pieces of "breast" (the saddle or filets), and two smaller front legs when you finish carving. Rabbit meat is very lean and not gamey. We are talking about rabbits that are raised for food, not wild animals. I did a couple of detailed posts about lapin en gibelotte a few years ago.

Cooked with the rabbit are onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, smoked bacon, and white wine, with bay leaves, salt, and pepper.

One of the simplest and most delicious ways to cook rabbit is to make what is called a gibelotte (a kind of fricassée). You brown some onions, garlic, and mushrooms in a pan along with some lardons fumés (chunks of smoked bacon or ham). Take all that out of the pan, set it aside, and brown the rabbit pieces in the same pan.

Then put the onions and all back in the pan and add in some wine and some chicken or rabbit broth — just enough to not quite cover the rabbit pieces. You want them braised and browned, not boiled. Put the pan on to simmer either on top of the stove or in the oven for an hour or so. Serve with rice, millet, quinoa, or boiled potatoes and either a salad or a vegetable like haricots verts, broccoli, kale, or collard greens.

11 comments:

Gosia k said...

wow delicious .At my place rabbits are not vbery popular chicken ,turkey duck and pork are common

Seine Judeet (Judith) said...

So, Ken, I imagine that it would be important to keep the pan uncovered while it cooks? to help keep the liquid from boiling? I'm thinking about when I poach meats... and I remember Julia Child saying that-- you can cover it partly, but not fully. What is the difference, then, between poaching and fricasee-ing? Is there more fat in this method?

Susan said...

Our rabbito cuts the rabbit into portions for you if you ask. At the very least he breaks its back and folds it in half -- it goes in the bag easier that way, and you are going to cut through its back bone anyway...

Bob Rossi said...

There are a couple of sources for rabbit here, although I don't think that many people make them. They are quite pricey; at least double the per pound price of a good chicken. But boy are they good.

Nadia said...

Gosh, I have not cooked rabbit in ages. Last time was a classic Lapin à la moutarde (in mustard) for a group of my cookery school students. I must make some soon.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Rabbit cooked en gibelotte with a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard added to the cooking liquid is good too.

Ken Broadhurst said...

The rabbit we got at the market in Saint-Aignan cost 12 euros for 1.5 kg. At the supermarket you can get them for less, but then you don't know if they are imported from China or elsewhere, or locally raised.

Ken Broadhurst said...

The vendor at the Saint-Aignan market offered to cut the rabbit up for me, but I didn't want to wait, so I brought the rabbit home whole. It's very simple to cut it into pieces for cooking. You can also cook it whole in the oven if you want to.

Ken Broadhurst said...

Brown the onions, garlic and lardons, and then brown the rabbit pieces in the same pan. Then add liquide just to cover the bottom of the pan and come halfway up on the bigger rabbit pieces so that they will steam but not actually boil in liquid. Cover the pan and cook it on top of the stove or set it in a hot oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Then uncover it and let it cook in the hot oven for 15 or 20 minutes longer, keeping an eye on it and letting the liquid reduce a little and the rabbit pieces etc. brown on top. That gives it a nice look.

Ken Broadhurst said...

In France rabbit is pretty popular, and around here quite a few people raise them themselves for food.

Bob Rossi said...

That's around half of what I've paid for locally raised rabbit here.