Braised Rabbit and Winter Vegetables

Braised Rabbit and Winter Vegetables

Was it Peter Cottontail or Bugs Bunny that turned so many American’s off to eating rabbit? We certainly don’t feel that way about chicken. In Italy and France, however, rabbit is happily consumed as often as chicken, without hesitation.

The first time I tried rabbit, was as an exchange student living with a family in Tours, France. For sport, my French family relished in teasing me and my plebeian palate. One evening, for example, “Madame” presented a dish, with little legs emerging from the pot, to the table. With a flourish she informed: “C’est un chat.” (“It’s a cat.”)

Fearing for the family pet, I stared, aghast, at the pot. Laughingly she retrenched, telling me it was rabbit. Rabbit sounded infinitely palatable than cat so, greatly relieved, I happily dug in. I haven’t looked back.

My conspirator in sleuthing interesting food, Wendy Williams, said I should explore cooking with white New Zealand rabbit. She then directed me to Chef Michael Chiarella’s rabbit recipes from his “Tra Vigne: Seasons in the California Wine Country” cookbook. This famed Napa Valley restaurant is known, particularly, for its marvelous rabbit dishes.

I’m always trying to eliminate steps or ingredients in recipes, as long as the subtraction doesn’t compromise the outcome. Before embarking on this recipe, I quizzed Wendy. Her reply: “I think the recipe can be simplified a lot, but part of the beauty of most of Chiarello’s recipes are the layers of flavor due to the reductions”. I did simplify the recipe somewhat, and reduced the butter, but I’ve provided the link to Chiarello’s original recipe below.

This is one of those great, winter weekend recipes. As mentioned in the cookbook, it’s not hard but time-consuming. And, incidentally, a great introductory recipe for the rabbit novice.

This was marvelous served on a bed of Al Dente locally made egg fettucini. If you purchase a whole rabbit, here’s a good instructional Youtube video for cutting whole, dressed rabbit into pieces.

Recipe: Braised Rabbit and Winter Vegetables

Ingredients for Rabbit

  • 1 rabbit, cut into 6 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 fresh thyme sprigs, plus additional sprigs for garnish
  • 10 black peppercorns

Ingredients for pasta

  • 12 ounces dry pasta
  • 1/2 cup diced pancetta
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced fennel, plus fronds for garnish
  • 1/2 cup diced parsnip
  • 1/2 cup diced rutebega
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups thickly sliced fresh wild mushrooms*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
  • Parmigianno-Reggiano


  1. Toss the rabbit with the balsamic vinegar. Let rest 15 minutes. Drain the rabbit. Season rabbit with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven until hot but not smoking. Cook the rabbit until golden brown on all sides, taking care not to burn, about 8 minutes.
  2. Remove rabbit from pan and reserve. Add additional 1 tablespoon oil to pan and, over medium heat, cook onion, celery and carrot. Add wine and bring to a boil, reducing by half.
  3. Add stock, bay leaf, thyme sprigs and peppercorns to pan, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Return rabbit to pot and, over medium heat, gently braise 6 minutes; do not boil or overcook rabbit or it will toughen. Remove rabbit. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch pieces and reserve. Simmer remaining stock until it is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 20-30 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for pasta. In a large sauté pan, fry pancetta until crispy, reserving fat in pan. Drain pancetta on paper towels and reserve.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to fat in pan and heat to medium high. Add the parsnip, carrot, rutabega and fennel. With a pinch of kosher salt, cook until well-browned, about 6 minutes. Remove vegetables from pan and reserve.
  6. Add remaining tablespoon butter to pan and over medium-high heat, brown mushrooms without stirring, 1 minute. Reduce heat, stir, and sauté an additional 3-4 minutes, or until mushrooms are just tender.
  7. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions and toss cooked pasta with remaining tablespoon olive oil.
  8. Add garlic and thyme to mushrooms and sauté 1 minute. Return wine reduction and vegetables to pan and simmer until vegetables are tender. Return reserved rabbit and pancetta to pan and gently reheat. Season to taste with kosher salt, if needed, and freshly ground pepper.
  9. To serve, combine rabbit with pasta or spoon rabbit over pasta. Garnish with shaved Parmesan, fennel fronds and thyme sprigs, if desired.

*Porcini, cepes and morels are expensive at this time of year. Substitute with the less costly shiitakes or baby bella mushrooms, if desired.

Rest Time: 15 minutes

Active Time: 50 minutes

Simmer/Reduction Time: 45 minutes

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.


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