31 March 2013

The Easter rabbit

At this time in my life, everything seems to have happened, or started, very long ago. I started learning French 50 years ago this year, when I was fourteen and a freshman in high school. Fifty years! I came to France for the first time more than 40 years ago, and 40 years ago on this date I was living and working in Rouen, in Normandy. Then I lived in Paris for a couple of years, in mid-'70s, plus three more years from '79 to '82.

Thirty years ago Walt and I started living together in Washington DC. We had met a couple of years earlier in Paris. That same year, I started working with my friend CHM. Then Walt and I moved to California more than 25 years ago. And, finally, we moved to France ten years ago. See what I mean. Everything happened... started... so long ago...

 Our Easter rabbit in its marinade of white wine, herbs, and vegetables

That's the way it is with the Easter rabbit. I won't call it a bunny. We started cooking a rabbit for Easter back around 1984, when we were living and working in DC, because seeing the Easter Bunny everywhere on TV and in stores that spring made us think about eating rabbit the way we had enjoyed eating rabbit in Paris. I think we've had rabbit on Easter every year since then.

So today we are cooking a rabbit, as usual. I'm cooking it in almost the most basic, simple way: « en gibelotte », it's called. That means stewed in white wine with lardons, carrots, onions, herbs, and mushrooms. It's a kind of fricassée, like Coq au vin is a fricassée, but the gibelotte is made with white wine instead of red wine — at least in my version. (The Larousse Gastronomque says a gibelotte is a « fricassée de lapin au vin blanc ou rouge » — but to me the red wine version is more often called a « civet ».)

The recipe I'm basing my Lapin en gibelotte on is Monique Maine's, in Cuisine pour toute l'année (1969). She calls it « Lapin au vouvray ». That's appropriate, since we live near Vouvray, which is on the Loire River less than an hour from here by car, and the first time that we came tp stay fpr twp weeks in the Loire Valley was 12 years ago in Vouvray, in a gîte rural we'd rented for a vacation. That turned out to be a pivotal moment, because we ended up living here not long after the good experience we enjoyed here.

I'll translate and post the recipe tomorrow. The first step is to marinate the rabbit for 6 hours or more in white wine (preferably vouvray, but any dry white wine will do) with the aromatic vegetables. Then you take the rabbit pieces out of the marinade liquid, dry them off with a (paper) towel, and sautée them in butter or olive oil before stewing them in the marinade. You can cook chicken the same way.

The rabbit cut up — two front legs, two hind legs, and the "saddle" (or « râble » in French)

I cut the rabbit up yesterday — Walt went to the Saturday market in Saint-Aignan and bought one from our favorite vendor — and put it in to marinate. I'll be doing the cooking part after I come back from my walk with the dog this morning.


  1. Joyeuses Pâques! Bon voyage. Please, give you mother my best regards.

  2. All good memories, and starts that you can be grateful for, eh?

    Joyeuses Pâques, and have a safe and wonderful trip, Ken :)


  3. Happy Easter to you and Walt and 'bon voyage'! Have a great time with your mum and family. Looking forward to seeing you and Walt in June! Martine

  4. I love rabbit!
    Have a wonderful safe trip Ken!

  5. A little reminiscing feels good now and then! But, sometimes for me, it is a shock when I say those big numbers(!). A couple of years ago I was sitting next to a stranger in an intermediate french class and he asked me how long I had been taking french - after thinking about it - the 40+ years seemed unbelievable! But then I started remembering all the fun times I've had with the french language. Happy Easter, enjoy your Easter Rabbit and enjoy your family visit in the U.S.!

  6. Merci, tout le monde. J'essaie de finir de faire mes valises...

  7. Joyeuses Pâques et Bon voyage Ken.

    Enjoy your rabbit dinner.

  8. Merci. N. Bonjour à Y. aussi.

  9. Rabbit sounds perfect, like the tradition you have made. Have a safe and enjoyable trip.
    Happy Easter!

  10. Starman, a friend of mine had a recipe: Bugs Bunny à la moutarde!

    Ken, I've discovered freezing my meat in the marinade. When I've bought too much of a good meat, instead of freezing it plain and then thawing and marinating, I freeze it in the marinade and the marinade does a great job during the thawing. I know you sometimes buy in bulk and you cook a lot of marinaded meats.

    Have a great trip. Be sure to bring Spring back with you. We need it.

  11. @Ellen...."Bugs Bunny à la moutarde!" That's funny!


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