I’ve had rabbit twice recently, both times in a restaurant. The first time the rabbit was tender, mild and slightly sweet. Delicious. The second time the rabbit was tough and gamey. Not very appealing. Having never cooked rabbit myself, I was curious about how something so mild and delicate at one place could be so strong and gamey at the next. Well, one day I found myself at a local butchers shop called The Spotted Trotter and the butcher mentioned that they had a rabbit sausage in the back. This led to a discussion of my recent rabbit dining experiences and I found myself walking out of the shop with a whole rabbit.
With the rabbit came new found motivation to make sure that my rabbit was of the delicious variety, so I turned the internet for guidance.
Rabbit Secret #1: The secret to ensuring your rabbit is mild and delicious is soaking it overnight. Soaking it in a saltwater solution draws out all kinds of stuff, including whatever holds that gamey flavor.
Rabbit Secret #2: Rabbit is very lean. Not necessarily tough, but very lean. Therefore, it lends itself well to slow-cooking methods.
Armed with this knowledge, I set my rabbit to a-brining and decided on a red wine braise, which was inspired by the braise at chezpim.com.
However, between the brine and braise, I found myself faced with the challenge of breaking down the rabbit. I’ve broken down chickens before, but that’s about it, so, once again, I turned to the interwebs for instruction. I found a great video of a Chef Frank Camorra in Melbourne demonstrating how to break down a rabbit. I figure that a chef in Australia probably knows how to properly deal with rabbits. I hear they have a few over there.
So here’s the thing. If you are at all squeamish about handling meat, have your butcher break down the rabbit for you. Other than the aforementioned chickens, I’m used to buying my meat nicely cut up into steaks, and loins and other cuts. When you have a whole rabbit, you can see the animal. When you’re handling it, it feels like the animal. It was a little disconcerting to me at first, but then I decided that it was a good thing. It’s good to have a reminder of where my food comes from once in a while. If an animal is going to die so I can eat it, I can do that animal the courtesy of acknowledging and appreciating that it was once a living creature. A delicious living creature.
- Braised Rabbit
- 1 Rabbit
- ¼ C + 2 tsp Salt
- 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Black Pepper
- 2 large Yellow Onions, roughly sliced
- 8 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 sprigs Rosemary
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 C Chicken Stock
- 500 ml Red Wine (2/3 bottle)
- Red Wine Risotto
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 1 small Yellow Onion, diced
- 2 C Arborio Rice
- Salt & Pepper
- 8 C Rabbit and/or Chicken Broth or Stock
- ½ C Red Wine
- ½ to ¾ C Parmesan Cheese, grated
- Braised Rabbit
- Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and stir in ¼ C of salt until the salt has fully dissolved into the water. Remove the brine from the heat and cool completely.
- Submerge the rabbit in the brine, cover, and let soak overnight in the refrigerator.
- The next day, drain the water and then rinse the rabbit several times in fresh water. Dry the rabbit completely. If your rabbit is whole, go ahead and break it down and reserve the bones. Chop up the livers and set aside for now.
- If you have reserved bones, add them to a pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until it is time to make the risotto to make a broth, skimming off any foam that builds up at the top.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and season the rabbit with salt and pepper. Sear the rabbit until browned: 2 to 5 minutes per side.
- Remove the rabbit from the pan and add the onion and garlic. Saute until soft and fragrant.
- Add 1 C of chicken broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Return the rabbit to the pan, setting it atop the layer of onions and garlic. Add the bay leaf, rosemary and cinnamon sticks.
- Pour in the red wine and bring it to a simmer. Stir in the chopped up livers into the braising liquid.
- Cover the pan and turn down the heat. Simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the rabbit is tender, flipping the rabbit half-way through the cooking time.
- Once the rabbit has finished cooking, remove it from the pan and cover to keep warm.
- Simmer the braising liquid, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced by at least half and thickened.
- Return the rabbit to the pan and coat in the sauce.
- Red Wine Risotto
- If you have a pot of rabbit bones simmering away, skim off any foam that has accumulated and strain the stock. Return the rabbit stock to the pot and add enough chicken stock or broth to make 8 C. Bring it to a simmer.
- Melt the butter in a large pan and add the diced onions. saute the onions until they are soft and fragrant. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the butter. Toast the rice in the pan until it starts to smell warm and nutty.
- Add a ladle-full of hot broth to the rice and stir the rice until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add another ladle of broth and stir until fully absorbed. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked, with a little bite left in the center.
- Stir in the red wine and parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
- If the risotto is thick, stir in broth until a ladle of risotto put on a plate will slowly spread out.
- Serve the rabbit over the risotto, making sure to include some of the onions and braising liquid.