Braising, butchering whole rabbit
I have a recipe, "lapin aux olives" from the Les Halles Cookbook, that calls for braising 4 rabbit legs. I have a whole rabbit, since that's what I could find in my area, and I'm not sure how to modify the recipe accordingly. As far as I can tell, after breaking down the rabbit I'll have two legs, two loins, a spine/ribcage for stock, and some sort of front quarter that I don't know how to use.
So the first question is: do I need to modify the braising time by cut? I'm thinking of rabbit as being roughly analogous to chicken, in which case the loins would overcook faster. Second question: what do I do with that front quarter?
I'm using this video as a guide for butchering the rabbit, so you can skip to the end of it to see the body parts I'm talking about.
I would suggest not Braising the Loins. Keep them aside, saute slice just before serving, serve with the Braise and its Juices(Sauce). Rabbit 2 ways.
The Fore Legs can also be Braised along with the Rear. They have less on them but still good.
The Kidneys and Liver are good too. Cook in the same manner as the Loins(Clean Kidneys very thoroughly!)
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I think rabbit is ideally prepared with two because the the loin is so lovely when spared heavy treatment. You can hack off all the legs and use them, especially if you are going to bone out the meat before serving. (Do- the forelegs look a bit like cat.) You can also cut off the the belly flaps and braise those too low and slow. You'll have some extra sauce that will be fine. Curing with milk and salt is very nice.
Bone out the loin and sauté quickly for breakfast.
And if you like rabbit, buy the Zuni cafe cookbook.
Thanks both of you. I ended up reserving the loins and belly flaps and braising the rest. The loin I just seared for a few minutes and then rested in the braising liquid for a few minutes before serving. The flaps I simmered for 45 minutes in chicken stock with a bouquet garni, then floured and refrigerated. Once cold I cut into strips and fried in the same pan as the searing loin. It was sort of like rabbit bacon. Really happy with it overall. I'll add the Zuni cafe cookbook to my list. I've heard of it too many times to keep avoiding it.
If they sold you the WHOLE rabbit, it SHOULD have four legs! That;s the nature of the critter. But the front legs are appreciably smaller than the hind legs in most breeds. I have the Bourdain cookbook, therefore the recipe. When I was a kid, we raised our own rabbits for the table. That said, I don't think the Les Halles recipe really intends you to use four giant hind legs. In fact, since it does not call for deboning the legs/thigh portions it's obviously not intended to be a boneless dish. Therefore I think it's fair game to assume the Les Halles recipe will work equally as well for a whole "jointed" rabbit as it will for legs only.
Here's a version of the Les Halles recipe from the web by someone who has obviously hacked it a bit:
And here's another rabbit recipe with mustard cream sauce that might interest you as well:
In both cases make sure that any kidney or any other organ bits are not clinging to the rabbit parts before cooking. They can give an off-flavor to the end result.
Hope this helps, and good luck!