Lapin — fresh rabbit — is always available in French supermarkets and open-air markets. It's domesticated, not wild, rabbit — in other words, it's raised for food. The cooked meat is very white and very lean. It's not gamy. It tastes like chicken, as we say. You could very well make this recipe with chicken, in fact. Remove the skin to keep it lean like rabbit.
I won't go into the details of cutting up a whole rabbit, but that's what I did. You can also buy parts and pieces. The meatiest parts are the back legs and the fillets (or "saddle" — rables in French). The front legs don't have as much meat on them but they're good too. As are the liver and the kidneys. I de-boned the fillets and trimmed as much meat as possible off the carcess. That lean meat can be chopped up and added to the mustard-cream sauce.
The first step is to season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper. Then make a marinade by mixing together about half a cup of mustard and a quarter of a cup of vegetable oil. Add a little bit of dry white wine if you think the marinade is too thick. Then brush it onto the rabbit pieces. Before cooking it, you can let the rabbit marinate for a few hours in the refrigerator if you have time.
When I say mustard you can assume Dijon mustard. That's what people use in France. Or whole grain mustard, which has the same taste as smooth Dijon mustard. Such mustards can be very spicy if you eat them right out of the jar, but they become much milder when cooked. Other ingredients in the lapin à la moutarde are thyme, bay leaves, onions, garlic, lardons (bacon), and mushrooms. All are optional, but you do want to include good seasonings and herbs.
You can brown the rabbit pieces in a pan on the stove or in the oven. I chose the oven, because it's less messy. Oil the bottom of a deep baking dish. Scatter diced onion and smoked pork lardons over the bottom of the dish. Arrange the marinated rabbit pieces on top of the onions and lardons. Set the baking dish, uncovered, in a hot oven, say 200ºC (400ºF), until the rabbit pieces are golden brown — for about 15 or 20 minutes. Adjust the heat (higher or lower, top or bottom) as you go to keep the cooking even.
Meanwhile, mix together about a cup of cream with another quarter cup of Dijon mustard and some white wine. Drop in the thyme, bay leaves, or other herbs, along with some pressed or chopped garlic. Heat up that mixture on the stove, letting it boil and thicken slightly. I saved out the rabbit liver and cooked it in the cream mixture instead of browning it with the rabbit pieces. Separately, if you want, slice and sauté a dozen or so big mushrooms.
When the rabbit pieces are golden brown, pour on the creamy mustard sauce and stir in the mushrooms. Let everything cook together for another 30 minutes or so — longer, if you want the meat to be falling off the bones.
We served the lapin à la moutarde with some grilled asparagus spears, some steamed Swiss chard, and some pasta. Think of it as chicken or actually cook chicken this way — potatoes, either steamed or sautéed, would also be good. Or rice, for example. That's a piece of the rabbit liver that you see on the left side of the plate.