Serving rabbit to some guests might make them squeamish, the unindoctrinated informing you they recently began a vegetarian diet. (By recently, they mean after they gobbled down the beef tenderloin canape appetizers you served a few minutes prior.) I remember the first time I was served rabbit.
I was a foreign exchange student my sophomore year in college living with a French family in Tours, France, and inquired about the dish they’d just placed on the table. My French mother, who took her verbal torture to extremes, informed me “C’est un chat.” Translated: “It’s a cat.”
It did resemble a cat, cooked in its entirety, legs protruding from the pot like twigs. I picked the potatoes and onions from around the “thing”, sickened recalling our family pet Tinkerbell, as I watched them devour the “thing” with relish. There was intention behind her teasing; more rabbit for them.
I grew to enjoy the lean “lapin” (rabbit), as it was one of the main sources of protein in the region. And if you ever find yourself traveling through the countryside of France, rabbit and duck may well be your only choice of non-beef animal proteins.
A good friend of mine hunts rabbit in Northern Michigan and was kind enough to share his bounty with me this year. I’ve also purchased rabbit from Sparrow Meats in Kerrytown, which is a reliable source for fresh rabbit, indeed most game that might strike your fancy. (Truth be told, I prefer the farm-raised rabbit Sparrow’s sell; they are more tender and there is more of a meat to bone ratio.)
This recipe is a very simple one-pot affair that I’ve improvised through the years, but it’s important that your pot, preferably a Dutch oven, have a heavy bottom and tight fitting lid. (I’ve seen Dutch ovens at enticing prices at Home Goods recently.)
I also make a Rabbit and Pork Belly Terrine that is out of this world. Here’s another rabbit recipe for Braised Rabbit with Winter Vegetables that is quite a bit more time-consuming but superb — definitely use farm-raised rabbit for that one.
Perfect served with wide noodles, redskins or polenta, and roasted squash or root vegetables.