Rabbit Two Ways

Sliced loin, braised leg with barley mushroom 'risotto' and carrots with dill
The first time I tried rabbit was on a friend's family farm in Menorca, Spain in the summer of 2007.  It was prepared simply - marinated in white wine, garlic, fresh herbs, then grilled.  It was a flavour discovery for me and one that I am glad I got to experience.  New foods never fail to titillate my taste buds.

Of the many cooking shows that I absorb, this method stood out.  The chefs on the show broke down the entire rabbit, including two tiny racks of ribs, kidneys, liver and loins.  I am not replicating that recipe - above my pay grade at the moment.  I did, however, do my best to pay homage to the little critter.  Coincidentally, soon after I saw the rabbit episode, they had rabbits on sale at Farm Boy - how fortuitous!

Breaking down a rabbit is not that difficult and really just requires some practice, patience and a sharp knife.  While the rabbit is on your cutting board, explore and you will see some obvious places to make some cuts.  (There are some great instructive videos I have seen on YouTube, on how to break down a whole rabbit).

I decided to do it two ways because you almost need to, so as to cook the whole rabbit properly.  The delicate loin should be 'just' cooked, while the legs can stand up to some serious, flavour-infused braising.  The resulting dish was perfect for a chilly autumn day, which is when it was enjoyed.  (I froze the liver and kidneys to make some dirty rice another day).

Ingredients:
2 lb rabbit, sectioned, bone tips reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil (to brown legs and bone tips)
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
5 small seasoning peppers (this is a Caribbean (not hot) pepper - use Cubanelle pepper as a tasty substitute)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 Bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine (for braising liquid)
1 cup fresh chopped tomatoes
3 cups veal stock

1 tablespoon olive oil (for loin)
1/4 cup dry white wine (for pan jus)
Salt and pepper

Top left clockwise:  whole rabbit as is from store; prepared loin and belly; kidneys; legs and belly with loin inside;

Preheat oven to 350F
- Season the legs with salt and pepper
- Heat an ovenproof pot over medium-high heat and brown the legs and the bone tips
- Remove legs and bone tips from the pan and add the carrots, celery and onion
- Saute for 2 minutes, until the onions start to get translucent (the mythical translucent onion...)
- Add the peppers and garlic
- Saute for another minute
- Add thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and tomato
- Saute for another minute
- Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil
- Put browned rabbit pieces and bone tips back into the pot, put a lid on it and put into the oven
- Leave it be for 75 minutes (at 60 minutes, it wasn't quite tender enough for my taste)
Seasoning Peppers
The last of my tomatoes
Browned legs and bone tips
 

Once rabbit braising is complete (take pot out of the oven and let it rest)...cook the loins
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Prepare the loins for roasting by laying out the belly/loin piece and cutting off the loin portion that is past the belly portion - basically in half, so that you can wrap the belly piece around the loin piece, then tie them up with butcher twine to retain their shape while roasting (see photos above).  This will protect the tender loin pieces from overcooking.
- Season with salt and pepper
- Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat and put in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil
- Brown lightly on all sides, then put the skillet with loins in a pre-heated oven for 12 minutes
- Remove the skill from oven and rabbit from the skillet, cover with foil and allow to rest on a rack for 6 minutes

To prepare a pan jus:
- Using the same skillet that cooked the loins (be careful of the hot handle), over medium-hi heat, de-glaze the pan with 1/4 cup of white wine
- When reduced by half, add 1/2 cup of the rabbit braising liquid
- Boil for 2 - 3 minutes, then remove from heat

I don't usually endorse grocery store products (as I'm not getting paid), but this a favourite - barley with mushroom by Blue Menu, President's Choice .  Of course, I kick it up a little with fresh herbs, some extra seasoning and some butter.


To plate, slice the loin and serve with some of the reduced pan juices and a portion of rabbit leg.  Serve with your starch and vegetable of choice.  It might seem like quite a bit of work, but this is what I enjoy doing on the weekends.



2 comments:

  1. I love rabbit but have never prepared it at home! I have no trouble breaking down a chicken but not sure I could do it to a rabbit. This looks delicious though!!

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