Cooking a Rabbit
I did it. I finally cooked the Gardner Farms rabbit that I purchased at The Wild Ramp over a month ago. I felt a little like Julie from Julie & Julia. For the record, I did not read the book. I watched the movie and loved it. So, what have I been doing for the last month? Two things: 1) Mustering up the courage to cut up and prepare the rabbit (it comes processed, but whole); and 2) Finding the perfect recipe (and by that I mean, a recipe that is simple enough to follow, but complex enough to give the rabbit its due). I have over twenty cookbooks and only one of them has a recipe for rabbit.
The cookbook also has a recipe for possum! No, I have not cooked possum. I don’t intend to either. However, you can imagine that the recipe for rabbit in that cookbook is, well, a bit basic. And, I wanted to get the most bang for my buck. The going price for a rabbit is about $6 to $7 per pound. After scouring Pinterest and the internet, I decided to go with a recipe from Simply Recipes. I have posted that recipe verbatim below, which also contains a link teaching you how to cut up the rabbit. For me, this was the hardest part of cooking the rabbit. I had to keep telling myself as I did it…you can do this…you can do this. And, I grew up on a pig farm and had been around while my Dad, uncles, and Grandpa butchered. For some reason, though, the rabbit was different. Maybe it was because, I was the one actually cutting up the rabbit. Anyway, the link contained in the recipe below was extremely helpful in teaching me how to do it, as was this link on Saveur’s website: http://www.saveur.com/gallery/Easy-Pieces-Cutting-a-Whole-Rabbit/1.
Rabbit in Mustard Sauce Recipe
You will probably get the kidneys with your rabbit. It is your choice whether to keep them or not. I always do, and I think they are the second-best part of the animal after the hind legs. Rabbit kidneys are mild in flavor and are a warm, soft, rabbity morsel in this dish. If you choose to use them, strip off all the fat, as well as the gossamer membrane that surrounds them.
- 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces (see How to cut up a rabbit)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 large shallots, chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup grainy country mustard, like Dijon
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1) Salt your rabbit pieces well and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
2) Heat the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan with a lid. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and brown them in the butter. Do this at a moderate pace – you don’t want the butter to scorch – and don’t let the rabbit pieces touch each other. Do it in batches if you need to.
Once the rabbit is browned, remove it to a bowl. Add the shallot and brown it well. This will take 3-4 minutes.
3) Pour in the white wine and turn the heat to high. Scrape off any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the mustard, thyme and water and bring to a rolling boil. Taste the sauce for salt and add some if needed.
4) Add the rabbit pieces, coat them with the sauce, then drop the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes. You want the meat to be nearly falling off the bone. It might need more time, but should not need more than an hour total. Wild rabbits sometimes need more time.
5) When the meat is ready, gently remove it to a platter. Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce down by half. Turn off the heat and add the cream and parsley. Stir to combine and return the rabbit to the pan. Coat with the sauce and serve at once.
Serve this dish with crusty bread and a big white wine, such as a white Bordeaux, white Cotes du Rhone blend or a buttery California Chardonnay. If you prefer beer, try pairing this with an unfiltered wheat beer.
Braising the Gardner Farms Rabbit in butter.
Sautéing The Potager Shallots.
What’s the verdict, say you? I could not have been happier with my first experience cooking a rabbit. The sauce was absolutely splendid and in my opinion worthy of serving at a restaurant. My two year old even ate it. That says a lot. However, like many novice cooks and especially like many novice cooks of rabbit, my rabbit was dry. Will there be a next time? Yes. Next time, I will buy a larger rabbit and braise it for a shorter period of time. After cooking the rabbit, I can say this: I have a true sense of accomplishment. I actually wanted to pat myself on the back when I completed the task. I felt like I made a real french dish and I did: Lapin à la moutarde.
Emily is a wife, mother, and attorney, living on the banks of the Ohio.