Friday, February 1, 2013

That Wascally Wabbit - Hare Braising Adventures

What's Up Doc?

Well,  dinner actually.  I'm starting to see more rabbit for sale in butcher shops.  I cooked my first rabbit about 10 years ago, after dispatching the muncher of my garden despite my best efforts to keep him out other ways.  I don't waste meat.  So Mr. Rabbit was added to a stew pot.   He was surprisingly tasty.

It tastes like chicken?  Seriously, it does.  But rabbit is MUCH lower in fat than chicken and domestic meat rabbits as an all white meat source, have a MUCH higher protein content.  Rabbit is a great option for the chef in search of a lean and natural meat that's less expensive than red meat and tastes great when prepared properly.

But you're killing Bugs!   Sorry, rabbits, indeed are cute, but they are not great pets and wild ones can do millions of dollars in agricultural damage every year. Even domesticated rabbits are nocturnal and natural burrowers, wanting only to dig and gnaw your carpet until they can find a dark corner to hide.  For every 6 million rabbits that are kept as pets, many who live lonely lives in cages, there's over 8 million in the US alone used yearly for food.  They're bred and tended to like other meat sources, cows, lamb, pig.

Are they free range?  That, folks, is what they call hawk snacks.   But the meat that is available here at Moody's Butcher Shop is antibiotic free and commercially raised, tended and harvested humanely.

This rabbit? Well, this one didn't come from the store. It succumbed to .. .uh. . lead poisoning.  It was still pretty darn tasty.  The recipe is a HOTR adaption of a rabbit recipe from my Canadian friend and avid hunter and cook, Marty. 

Start with some wine and a wabbit - An average young "fryer" rabbit is 2 to 3 pounds.  The meat is very lean, so it's best to braise or slow cook with some liquid to ensure tender meat without drying out.  You can add other fat sources for additional flavor and still have a very healthy dish.

Braised Wabbit

If using a wild rabbit, place cleaned/dressed rabbit in well salted water over night in your fridge to soak. Handle the rabbit like chicken -  wear gloves or wash between handling and other chores. Cook thoroughly.

Most rabbits you get at the butcher come whole, so you will need to cut them into serving portions. You'll want a serious knife.  You may want a cleaver.  A chain saw is overkill.  Start by cutting the two back legs (thigh and leg) off, then the top third of the rabbit, consisting of the front legs and chest cavity. This leaves the middle section which is known as the saddle.  Split the chest cavity and cut the saddle into two pieces.  This will serve 2-3 people.

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Brown rabbit  in bacon fat over medium high with 3-4 cloves chopped garlic.  Remove to a roasting dish or pot.

Coarsely chop a green pepper, a parsnip, and a medium onion.

Parsnips?   Yes, a much overlooked root veggie, parsnips are sweet and starchy and sort of look like albino carrots run amok.  Ignoring them seems to be a modern American thing.  The Irish liked to brew parsnip beer, the English made wine out of them in the 19th century, and Italian farmers who raise pigs for that oh so incredible Parma prosciutto are know to feed the animals parsnips to give the meat a natural sweetness. (I find my prosciutto at Goose the Market, somewhere near the lamb and jowl bacon).

I love them julienned and tossed with olive oil and honey and roasted with with mint and sage (your family will eat them like French fries) and in Cornish Pasties and other dishes.

Choose parsnips that are medium sized and have a firm, unblemished, beige skin.  Before cooking, wash the exterior, peel and cut off the top and bottom. They keep well, stored like most root veggies.

Saute the veggies in the same pan and remaining bacon grease as the rabbit, until softened and just starting to brown. Remove to same the  dish.  De glaze the saute pan with one cup of good white wine and a good splash of Balsamic Vinegar, scrapping up any browned bits. Reduce by letting it come to a simmer for a minute or two,  remove from heat and add one cup of fresh tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes with liquid, some ground pepper,  2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon tarragon, a spring of fresh thyme and a tiny dash of fresh lemon juice. Pour over the rabbit and veggies and cook covered in 300 degree oven for about 2 and and a half hours, checking and adding a tablespoon or two of liquid halfway through if it needs it.  Serve with whole grain rice or side of your choice and the rest of your wine.

That's all folks!


  1. Do you remove the scent glands?

  2. Bob - oh yes and you want to be VERY careful not to cut them or bring them in contact with the edible portions of the carcass. Based on physiological changes with the seasons they can greatly change the taste of the meat.

    My cutting instructions are for someone buying their rabbit whole. I'm not going to try and teach someone to field dress in a short post except for the field dressing of a bobcat which is simply.


  3. Sometime you'll post a Hasenpfeffer recipe?

  4. I suppose I oughtto look in to cooking raccoons, the rate I can trap them out behind the chicken shed...

  5. There is an ample supply of the little bunnies that live next door. The hawks, owls, coyotes and feral cats are frequent visitors. Can be entertaining at times, either the mating rituals or the hunt. Watched the black cat today chasing one today. Bunnies took a 40 foot bounding leap and left the cat standing in the dust.

    Used to hunt the little bunnies with the bow n arrow in my younger days, tasty lil critters. Jack rabbits was the source of income during school. Buy some .22 shells and other items of the juvenile life years ago.

    Rabbits do propagate, in the 30's they used to have rabbit drives on the prairie, kill thousands of em in a few hours. The rabbits was destroying crops and gardens.

    Haven't cleaned or skinned one in years. hmmm......

  6. Chain saw???
    rilly, doesn't it depend on the size of the teeth?
    Thank you for the recipe and the giggles.
    Rich in NC

  7. When I was a kid my dad and I used to hunt snowshoe rabbits quite a bit during the winter.
    My mom used to cut them up, brown them, then throw them in a pot with carrots, onions, and big fat homemade egg noodles. Made a great meal on a winter afternoon.
    She also made it into cacciatore, which was quite good.

  8. I ate a lot of rabbit growing up. Dad always had a few traps out and I brought home a few from my impromptu "hunting" trips after school with my .22.

    You do need to be careful with wild rabbits before eating them. Scald them first in boiling water. That will kill any surface parasites left after cleaning/skinning. You needn't complete cook them, just a minutes in boiling water then you can roll the pieces in flour/cornbread crumbs, whatever before cooking. You can prevent a number of diseases just by taking a few precautions.

  9. If you do manage to catch a wild rabbit, be careful cleaning them and don't nick the liver. And whatever you do, DO NOT eat the liver! Lots of tularimia out there. White spots on said piece of meat will alert you. Best to not even eat him unless you are in some sort of survival situation.

  10. I used to raise rabbits when I was a kid. Had over 70 of them and ate it all of the time. It doesn't get old. I need to take a walk and bring back a bugs. I think I'd like to batter and deep fry it this time. Yum.

  11. Only ever had bunny once, back about 1979 when visiting family of the people I stayed with during the summer between college years. And yes, it does taste a lot like chicken.

  12. My wife's family (Italian) has a rabbit cacciatiore as part of the Easter feast.
    Pancetta, peppers, onions, mushrooms, bunny...........

    There are, obviously, many many jokes about "the Easter Bunny's last stop..........." or "Rabbit and lamb--the feast of the cute animals............"

    It's all good!!!


  14. We have no rabbits here in Newfoundland. We do have snowshoe and arctic hares however. They are dark meat though much bigger than cottontail and are very good in stews.One of my favourite meals involves hares done in stew with plenty of wine in the pot. A few scotch whiskys while cooking also flavours the stew.

  15. YUM.MEEE Our rabbit season is starting to close down but we have 9 in the freezer. Bring on the braising!!!


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