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Bunny for Beginners?

  • s

Lately I've been eyeing the whole, skinned rabbits I see in the meat department of my local Asian supermarket. I've never cooked anything with rabbit before, and while I would probably feel a bit intimidated to ask for one at a full service butcher (seems like I would need to know what I was doing before embarking on a whole new species, ya know?), the whole self-service aspect is inspiring me to casually toss Peter Cottontail into my basket and figure out what to do with him when I get home.

So, comrades, any ideas for relatively easy recipes to ease my introduction into rabbitude?

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  1. Hi Steven, The obvious is most likely Hassenpfeffer, but since it's not one of my favorites, I'd recommend a fricassee. Perfect now that cooler weather is upon us. There's wine, brandy, mushrooms, shallots, just delicious. My recipe is in Joy of Cooking, but I'd imagine any good cookbook would have a similar one. Not difficult, if you can make a stew. I cooked many a rabbit when I was shopping on a graduate school budget for my husband. It was less expensive than chicken. Pat

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pat Hammond

      To my taste, rabbit is not chicken (and vise versa, i guess), but kind of a cross between. Kind of a meatier chicken. Anyway, a great recipe is in one of the Jacques Pepin "Techniques" books. It's for rilletes (sp.??)-- which is basically a very cooked-down, shredded rabbit. A very time-consuming though delicious peasant dish. Good luck.

    2. With chicken so cheap and available, chicken legs are so close few people can tell the difference. When I was in Germany, most natives preferred chicken to hassenpfeffer.

      1. Ragù al Coniglio

        Tomato sauce:

        24 ripe fresh tomatoes en concasse (see *0 below)
        2 cans whole tomatoes (San Marzano is good)
        16 oven-dried tomatoes (see *1 below), chopped
        6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped with a bit of the oil
        1 tube Italian tomato paste (see *2 below)
        1 head garlic, minced
        1 onion, minced
        1 jalapeno chile, minced and seeded
        1 cup fresh basil or 2 Tbsp. dried, chopped
        2 Tbsp. oregano
        2 Tbsp. parsley
        2 Tbsp. fennel seed (crack in your hands before adding)
        1 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
        salt and pepper
        olive oil

        In a large pan, saute the garlic, onion, and chile in olive oil until translucent.
        Add all the tomatoes at once, add the basil, oregano, parsley, fennel, and lime juice.
        Simmer for as many hours as you possibly can and adjust the seasoning often. Don't add
        salt until the last hour of cooking or it'll be too salty.

        *0 En concasse means seeded, cored, and chopped.
        *1 Brush a pan with olive oil and lay fresh tomato halves (seeded and cored) cut side down. Add salt and pepper generously and roast in a slow oven for 2 hours.
        *2 If you can't get tubed Italian double-concentrate tomato paste, use the God-awful cans and add a teaspoon or two of red wine for fortification.

        THE RECIPE:

        1 rabbit (3-4 pounds) or rabbit parts, get breasts and legs for sure. (Or use the same amount of lamb, beef, goose, duck, or (ugh) chicken)
        1 cup dry red wine
        4 Tbsp. minced garlic
        1/2 large onion, minced
        1 Tbsp. fennel seed
        olive oil
        salt and pepper

        If necessary, skin the rabbit and soak it in salt water overnight. Season the rabbit parts once you've dissected it. If using other meat, season well.
        In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, and fennel. Add the rabbit and brown it thoroughly so it leaves lots of good crust on the bottom, but don't burn it.
        Remove the rabbit and deglaze the pan by turning the heat to high and adding red wine. It will cause a LOT of steam! Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to get all those yummy bits. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated.
        Add the rabbit back in and cover with tomato sauce. Simmer at least an hour, preferably two, and serve over hot pasta.

        Dave Lieberman (Zaphod B)

        2 Replies
        1. re: PRSMDave

          I'll give a nod to this recipe. It's similar to what my ma would make when we hunted in Northern California. Rabbit makes a great sauce.

          1. p
            Pat Goldberg

            My favorite is a stifado, a Greek stew with lots of onions. There are a gezillion recipes on the net.

            1. j
              Jeremy Osner

              You can make a very nice version of that French white bean stew with duck (what is that called again?) using rabbit in place of duck. Just follow the recipe for the dish, everything is the same except for what meat you use.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jeremy Osner

                Are you thinking of a Cassoulet, Jeremy?

                Rabbit is very lean and delicate. I've enjoyed the whole smoked rabbit many times with a glass of Ale. It shreads easily, which takes it good finger food. Maybe for a bunny beginner it's good to first cook it as unadorn as possible to get the taste of the rabbit?
                (I haven't left the beginner stage, yet. Still enjoying it as is)

                1. re: HLing
                  Jeremy Osner

                  Cassoulet it is! Tastes marvelous made with rabbit.

              2. If fresh rabbits with the giblets are available, run, don't walk, to get them. Rabbit liver is probably the finest liver of all. It's surprisingly large and more delicate than calf's liver, at least to my taste. And I am not a liver lover by any means.

                1 Reply
                1. c
                  Caiitlin Wheeler

                  Many French "bistro" cookbooks have a fairly straightforward recipe for Lapin a la moutarde -- the rabbit is cooked in a delicious mustard sauce. My father (who up to this point cooked only things he could barbecue, macaroni and cheese, and veal piccata) added it to his repertoire while spending a summer in Paris, and made it several times. The recipe he used was in Patricia Wells' Food Lovers' Guide to Paris, but it's basic enough it should be found in many French cookbooks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Caiitlin Wheeler

                    Some friends of ours got a cheap midwinter excursion deal for Paris and spent about a week there. One bistro had a Lapin dish but one of the friends persuaded the other to try something else, as they were coming back to the same place the next day. And then they didn't come back … so she asked me if I could possibly cook it for all of us. I got the recipe from "La Cuisine Grandmere", a very dandy French comfort-food book, and it was a breeze. And utterly delicious.

                    My dad hunted small game in the woods of Illinois, and rabbit was one of the commonest critters he brought home. My mom usually seasoned, floured and browned the pieces along with sliced onion, and then braised them in liquid so it made its own gravy. I don't have the recipe, but I'd like to do some research and nail that one down. She used it for rabbits, for our amazingly large squirrels, and once for a young raccoon, which was extraordinary.

                  2. I just ran across this method posted on another board - haven't tried it yet, but it sounds like heaven to me. The poster had this in Italy.

                    Truss the rabbit with onions/lemons in the paunch, then coat the rabbit with a mixture of very finely chopped proscuitto (the the more fat the better), rosemary, vin santo, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. It was then roasted in a very hot outdoor oven.

                    1. My all time favorite, hands down, is a dish usually(properly) reserved for game(rabit in markets is probably farm raised though).
                      The dish is "Stifatho"(stifado).
                      It is a braised meat dish with baby white onions and little else. Many sources of good recipes, all of which I'm sure are delicious. It's Greek, and very good!

                      Happy Cooking and Good Eats!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        Sorry, I wanted to add, Coq au Vin, is a Wonderful dish if prepared with rabbit instead of chicken. Also try using 'exotic' or 'wild' mushrooms in this, it will make a wonderful stew.

                        Happy Cooking and Good Eats!

                        1. Wow, old thread!

                          Anyway...no one back then was a redneck.

                          Quarter that baby up and fry it just like you would chicken.

                          Nothing finer.

                          1. So glad you posted this! I frequent Ranch Mart and have been wanting to post this same question. I have tried rabbit and love it but I am terrified that when I make it myself it will be awful! no idea how to break one down , etc.

                            1. The Zuni Cafe cookbook has a very fine approach to rabbit with an especially helpful breakdown of how the parts work. Cutting it into pieces isn't actually a very good way. I always buy two so I can sauté the loin (about three minutes) make sausage with bits, and braise the legs. We feast for days and days.

                              The rabbit sausage is a bouncy tender mild yumminess enriched with a bit of egg, cream, and bread crumb.

                              1. No help from me, but I have to say that a. I LOVE the thread title and the reference to Peter Cottontail and b. I'm reading this thread to learn from it. I haven't cooked with Little Bunny Foo Foo before, either. :)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: LMAshton

                                  My four year old loves to make hopping bunny fingers when we have rabbit for dinner. =)