A local farmer offers rabbits for sale at my local Farmers’ Market and co-op, and I figured it was high time I gave it a try. Hat tip to Thor Falk who suggested a coq au vin approach, but I was more in the mood for white wine than red this go-round.
And I shan’t lie. I had some issues.
First, chances are, you’ll have to do some butchering. I’ve done this with birds, mostly chicken and turkey, and feel comfortable with that. But, even though the head and organs were removed for me, I still got squeamish. Why? The carcass had front legs. It was just so…mammalian. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I removed the legs at the joints and then carved as much meat off the “saddle” as I could, diced it up, and just added it to the stew. Secondly, I will no longer discount the power of cultural mores, because with each bite, I couldn’t get it out of my head that I was eating rabbit.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It was perfectly delicious. Clearly, I have some serious work to do before going to Mongolia someday.
The NY Times reported on rabbit a few years ago, see here. They mention that it’s never really caught on here in the US due to the is-it-pet-or-is-it-dinner question. It’s also associated with lean times, having been pushed by our government during WWII. It seems that a new generation of hobbyists have discovered rabbits are easy to raise in small quarters, to slaughter and butcher, and they’re inexpensive compared to other animals that can be raised for meat. So maybe we’ll be seeing more of it in the future.
If you’re anything like me and think you might have some issues, this recipe can of course be done with chicken pieces. But I think there’s great value in pushing our boundaries and trying new things, so if you can get your hands on a rabbit, I say go for it.
1/2 lb. bacon, diced small
1 rabbit, cut into pieces
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3-4 cups chicken broth (just to cover rabbit)
1/2 cup white wine (optional, if not using just make sure you have enough broth)
1) Add bacon to large pot over medium-high heat and cook until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate and set aside. Sprinkle S&P on rabbit pieces, then brown them in the rendered bacon grease for about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from pot and set aside on plate with bacon.
2) Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, and onion to pot and sauté until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and thyme, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Return rabbit and bacon to pot, add bay leaf, broth, and wine (if using) just to cover, and bring to a boil.
3) Reduce heat to medium when boil is achieved and cover pot. Stew for 1 hour. Adjust S&P if necessary, and serve.