I'm being intimidated by a rabbit...
So I picked myself up a frozen rabbit at 99 Ranch (local asian mega-supermarket) yesterday, which is currently defrosting in the bottom of my fridge.
I've never cooked rabbit or known anyone who has before and all of a sudden I am finding myself very nervous... that bunny is gettin' to me!
I did a couple searches for "rabbit" but mostly found posts on local boards from others looking to purchase rabbit...
So, recipes? You got one? I've already decided I won't be making a stew (DH hates stews of all kinds...I know, shame!) so what is another tried & true rabbit technique?
In general you can treat it like chicken so if you have any favorite chicken recipes, just sub in thumper. Chicken fried rabbit, braised rabbit, rabbit cacciatore etc. would all work great.
I do a really simple treatment taught me by my MIL: If it's whole, cut it into small serving pieces as you would a chicken; using shears often helps. Brown the rabbit pieces, well-seasoned with salt and pepper, in abundant olive oil in a large skillet possessing a cover, which you'll use later. This will take 5-10 minutes per "side". While the rabbit is browning, peel and bruise 4-5 cloves of garlic, more or less. Add them towards the end of the browning phase as you don't want these to burn.
When the rabbit is somewhat golden-brown, pour in a good slosh of vinegar (I use cider vinegar, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup) and lay some big sprigs of fresh rosemary into the pan, and cover. Turn heat to a low simmer and cook for at least an hour, turning and checking the meat once or twice during this period. The rabbit will throw off some water, but toward the end your goal is to have 3-4 tbsp. of a slightly thickened pan juice. Depending on your pan and other circumstances you may have to boil off some of the liquid, or add water to prevent burning.
P.S. If you have any of the organ meats (fresh rabbit comes with heart and liver where we get it) don't cook them along with this. They do better on their own just sauteed in a frypan with some fat, for the minimum time necessary to cook through, though you can serve them at the end along with the rest.
Marcella Hazan's braised rabbit with rosemary and wine is the first rabbit dish I ever made. It was simple and amazingly delicious. I also reported a while ago on a braised rabbit dish from All About Braising: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3301... . It's fine the first day, but amazing if you let it rest for a day before serving. Good luck!
I cook rabbit fairly often. Braises are great, but for something as non-stew-like as can be, I highly recommend this recipe from How to Cook a Lamb.
The rabbit is poached in oil with a bunch of spices. Then finished on the grill. It is absolutely wonderful.
The very best rabbit recipe I've ever made is Rabbit Marinated in Vinegar and Herbs and Stewed in Red Wine. You'll find it on pages 246-249 in Volume Two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Or here... it's the very last recipe in the post...
I cook rabbit fairly often, and while I agree with Jzone below that you can sub rabbit for chicken in many recipes, I personally think that rabbit has more flavor than chicken, which I think changes the approach a bit. With chicken (at least most commercially raised chickens in the US), there is so little flavor in the chicken itself that the meat needs some spices or sauces. In my opinion, rabbit has enough flavor that it can carry it's own in a very simple preparation, but not enough flavor that it would come thru if heavily spiced or sauced.
I like lidia's approach above; I usually cook rabbit as she does, but with a few tweaks: cut into several pieces, season well, brown in a hot pan (dutch oven type) with olive oil, take meat out and add a little diced onion, carrot, and celery, maybe garlic to the pan until translucent, deglaze with some white wine, put rabbit back in, add some chicken stock and light herbs like thyme, maybe a sprig of rosemary, or some marjoram, and sometimes I add a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard, cover and either simmer on stovetop or put in oven for about 45 minutes, or until rabbit is tender. Take rabbit out and let rest, strain solids out of sauce, and heat to thicken it to serve as a gravy. There's enough flavor to accompany the rabbit, but not too much to drown out rabbit's awesome flavor. For me, if you add too many strong spices, then you might as well cut your cost in half and just use cheap chicken, because you won't be tasting the meat.
I cook rabbit a lot. We love stews, and our favorite is my version of the classic Burgundian Rabbit in Mustard Sauce. However, in "Lulu's Provencal Table," by Richard Olney, Lulu Peyraud of Domaine Tempier fame shares a recipe for Rabbit ROASTED that's been stuffed with Armagnac soaked, liver pate stufffed prunes. The rabbit is wrapped with bacon to keep it from getting dry. this recipe is so fabulous, delicious, over-the-top wonderful I cannot describe. It does take a bit of planning, or you need D'Artagnan's "French Kisses," (which are the previously described stuffed prunes).
Key to the success with roasting a rabbit is to remember it is much leaner than chicken, so you need bacon or some other fat to defray that loss, or your rabbit will be dry.
I was reminded of Monty Python, "Oh it's just a harmless little bunny isn't it?"
Thank you for posting this question, I'd like to make something that's not a stew too. I may start with lidia's suggestion, or ChefJune's. I'll be interested in how yours turned out so would love it if you post the result.
Rabbit's a sentimental favorite, but for years I've rebelled at its price because we used to (late 80's) get whole rabbits from the Rabbit Ladies down the road from us for $2.50/piece, cleaned and with kidneys. We bought 12 at a time. I used to cut them up, salt and pepper them, then grill them slowly, basting with the liquid from a cooked mixture of a head of minced garlic, Matouk's hot sauce, juice of a lemon or two, and a stick of butter. Dumped the cooked garlic on at the end. Cotes du Rhone & paper towels. Steamy summer evenings. Bliss.
Here is a Catalan-style recipe I posted elsewhere on the site:
Cut off rabbit's front and rear legs, then the chest, then split the midsection down the middle of the spine. Salt rabbit and brown all pieces in olive oil. Deglaze pan with mild red wine and set aside.
Dice one onion, one red bell pepper, four cloves garlic, one eggplant, and saute in the same pan with more olive oil. When onion is translucent, add one can crushed tomatoes and the deglazed wine juices from the rabbit. Simmer sauce until eggplant is tender, then add rabbit pieces and continue simmering until the meat pulls easily away from the bone. Finish the sauce by swirling in a dab of butter. Serve with fresh bread rubbed with ripe tomatoes.
This comes out as a thick sauce-like consistency so if it is too stew-like you can toss with farfalle or some other broad pasta.
Speaking of Catalan food, here's one from neighbouring Mallorca - conill amb ceba (rabbit with onions).
Chop the bunny and brown. Remove from the pan. Cook sliced onion (about 1.5kg) per rabbit slowly in the pan (this is one of those 30 minute jobs). Put the rabbit back in, along with a little pimenton, nutmeg, bay leaf, marjoram and a small glass of water. Put the lid on & cook for 35 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, brown a little sobrassada (leave it out if you can't get it) and the rabbit liver. Put this is a mortar along with a few almonds, 1 clove garlic and a little chopped parsley and pound together to make a paste. Add a splash of water and stir into the rabbit pot. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.