13 April 2009

Moroccan rabbit with lemon and almonds

We always cook rabbit on Easter. We started cooking rabbit on Easter just because Easter made us think of the Easter Bunny, and I said: "Hey, why not cook a rabbit. It's something we don't eat very often, and it can be really good." That was probably in 1983 or 1984.

For years, we would make a Lapin en gibelotte for Easter dinner. That's a classic French stew of rabbit, onions, carrots, potatoes, and herbs with a thickened, creamy sauce. We probably also made Lapin à la moutarde a few times — rabbit cooked in a sauce made with Dijon mustard is another French classic.

Tajine de lapin au citron et aux amandes — Morroccan-style rabbit

In 2008, we saw a cooking show on French cuisine TV where the chef made a Thai curry with rabbit. So we made that. It involved boning the rabbit and cutting the meat into small pieces. It was really good, but it was a lot of trouble. Walt blogged about it, with pictures. The recipe is there too.

The rabbit came cut up into 6 pieces with the liver in
a little plastic cup inside the supermarket package.

This past winter, we saw a Swiss cooking show on French CuisineTV on which the cook, Annick Jeanmairet, prepared a Tajine de lapin au citron et aux amandes. That's a rabbit cooked with lemon and almonds, not to mention onions, garlic, and typical Moroccan spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, saffron, cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and so on. It looked really good so we got the recipe off the CuisineTV web site and saved it for our Easter dinner.

When you buy a rabbit, you get two each of these pieces:
front leg, saddle (the back), kidney, and back leg.
You also get the liver, which is good like chicken liver.

One good thing about recipes for rabbit dishes is that you can always substitute chicken if you can't find or don't like the idea of eating rabbit. You should try rabbit, though, if you haven't. Domesticated rabbits don't have a gamy taste at all, and the meat is even leaner than chicken.

Here's a step-by-step description of putting the Moroccan rabbit dish together.

You can cook potatoes — no need to peel them — in the pot with the rabbit. Or you can omit them and serve the rabbit with rice, pasta, or couscous.
Peel and slice up two medium onions (or a medium onion and a large shallot). Peel and de-germ four cloves of garlic. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest of two lemons.
Cut each zested lemon into four wedges. Squeeze out the juice and seeds . Then cut each of the eight wedges in half again. You'll put the zest strips and the wedges, pulp and all, in the dish to cook with the rabbit.
Here's the lemon zest. It's in strips, but I think it could just as well be grated if you want. After they cook, the strips are tender and tasty.
Put olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and cook the onions & garlic in it on low heat. You'll brown the rabbit with them and spices before adding liquid.
Add 2 tsp. of curry powder to the pot. Let the spices cook for 2 minutes, and then put the rabbit pieces in. Stir them around and turn them so that they get covered with spice.
The saddle (râble) pieces have long flaps of meat on each side. Pin them down using wooden skewers to make them cook neatly.
Pull the fat off the rabbit kidneys, and trim up the liver to remove any veins or fat. Cut the liver into 2 or 3 pieces if you want. Add all and then 2 cups of water. Cook on low heat for 45 minutes.
Five minutes before before serving, add peeled almonds and fresh herbs to the post. Parsley and cilantro are good, but I bet fresh oregano and basil would be good too.

So you cook the rabbit pieces in a big pot with the onions, garlic, spices, and potatoes. I say use curry powder or make up you own spice blend. The original recipe called for just cumin and saffron. The Moroccan ras-el-hanout spice blend I used contains cumin, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, and cardamom.

The cooking liquid is water. Let the rabbit pieces brown a little in the pot before adding liquid. Add salt and pepper liberally. When the potatoes are done, the rabbit pieces will be done too. Like chicken, rabbit doesn't really take long to cook.

The potatoes and rabbit pieces are cooked.
Add peeled almonds and some herbs for the last five minutes.

The rabbit we bought at SuperU seemed especially good and meaty. It weighed about 3 lbs. I'm sure this would be very good with chicken or even turkey. I think chicken thighs and drumsticks might be the best.

On the plate — a little messy, but delicious

Annick Jeanmairet's recipe (in French) says you can substitute black olives for the almonds in this tajine. I think green olives would be just as good. In fact, here's what I'm going to do next week: I bought some turkey wings at SuperU on Saturday — they sell them as a substitute for veal and call them blanquette de dinde — turkey for stew. It's actually just the first wing section with a big piece of turkey breast meat attached. I'm going to cook the turkey Moroccan style with lemon and olives.


  1. This looks deelish, Ken! I often cook curries and love all those spices. Your new green cutting board looks good too.


  2. Hello Ken,

    Thanks again for the daily posts; reading your's and Walt's is part of my wake-up routine (1st is BBC News, then your blogs).

    I have a favor to ask. I understand quite a bit of written French, but have considerable difficulty speaking it. When approached by a clerk, waiter, etc., what is the best way to say (after "Bonjour/Bonsoir", monsieur/madam/mademoiselle"), "I'm sorry, I don't speak French. Do you speak English?"?

    Also, when to use Madame vs. Mademoiselle?

    Thank you very much!


  3. Great recipe, thank you for the detailed instructions. I love Annick's show "Pique Assiette", she's so funny.
    I must try this.

  4. Didn't you have Lapin aux Pruneaux last year in a Parisian restaurant the name of which I can't remember?

  5. Bill, the thing to say is: Excusez-moi, je ne parle pas français. Parlez-vous anglais ? As far as Madame vs. Mademoiselle, it's safer to say Madame unless the woman is very young, almost a teenager.

    Dedene, I think Pique-Assiette is very funny too. I like her "set" -- it's a tiny apartment in, I guess, Geneva. Very realistic.

    CHM, I had canard aux pruneaux at the Trumilou restaurant, in Paris on the quai between the Pont Louis-Philippe and the Hôtel de Ville. Over the past three years, I've cooked duck with prunes, lamb with prunes, pork with prunes, and chicken with prunes on different occasions. But not rabbit with prunes. I'll have to try that. Peter Hertzmann once cooked us a very nice rabbit in red wine, but not with prunes.


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