Confit de Lapin (Rabbit Confit) and Rillettes

It was my good fortune, while on a recent culinary tour to Provence, to return to the Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle.  As part of the extraordinary lunch we enjoyed over-looking the courtyard, my friend and Executive Chef Benoit Witz presented this confit de lapin to us as a first course.

The confit was resting on a black olive crostini.  Perched on top was a slice of farci de lapin.  On my last visit, I was very fortunate to have Benoit teach me how to make the roulade.  (More on that later…)

I had made duck confit many times, which is a necessary addition to cassoulet.  It is also delicious served over lentils with sautéed lardons.  However, I had never made confit de lapin.

After arriving home, I was rummaging through the freezer — there’s the sour cherries with which I must do something soon; maybe make jam.  Ahh, one more foie, which we’ll enjoy during the Christmas Holidays.  Oh, and the ice cream insert – maybe a savory sorbet next time.  And then, low and behold, there in the back of the third shelf was the last lapin from the farm of our friends Curt and Paul.

Remembering that delicious first course from Le Celle, I wanted to see if I could recreate the confit de lapin.  It turned out super!  Since it did, I thought I’d share my recipe with you.

1 whole rabbit, cut into 6 – 8 pieces
4 tablespoons kosher or course sea salt
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
12 sprigs thyme, fresh
2 sprigs rosemary, fresh
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
About 6-7 cups duck fat, or enough to completely cover rabbit pieces

Sprinkle all sides of the rabbit with salt.  Arrange half the rabbit pieces in a glass dish, large enough to hold all of them.  Evenly scatter half the garlic, shallots, thyme and rosemary sprigs, and peppercorns on top.

Arrange the remaining rabbit in the dish, and scatter the remaining garlic, shallots, thyme, rosemary and peppercorns over them. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 225°F.  Melt the duck fat in a medium saucepan.  Over a sieve, wash the salt and aromatics off the rabbit, reserving all the ingredients except the salt.

Arrange the rabbit pieces in layers in a high-sided ovenproof saucepan, such as a Le Creuset French oven.  Pour the melted fat over the rabbit (the pieces should be covered by fat) and place the confit in the bottom third of the preheated oven.

Cook at a very slow simmer, with just an occasional bubble, until the meat is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, 2-3 hours.

Remove the confit from the oven and allow to cool until easily handled.  Strain off the aromatics; keeping the meat and fat in separate containers.  Pull the meat from the bone, discarding the bones.  The fat can be frozen and used again.

Confit of one rabbit
1 – 2 cups reserved duck fat, divided
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons cognac
1/4 cup duck or rabbit stock
Salt and pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, using the metal blade, pulse about 1/3 of the confit until roughly chopped.  Reserve in a medium bowl.  Process the remaining 2 batches batches of rabbit and place in the bowl.

In a small sauté pan, over a very low flame, heat about 1/4 cup duck fat.  Add the shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes or until they are translucent.  Add the garlic and continue cooking about 45 seconds.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Pour the shallot/garlic mixture into the bowl with the reserved meat.

Heat the cognac in the same sauté pan.  Carefully ignite and allow the flame to burn out.  Pour in the stock to cool the cognac.  Pour the cognac mixture in the bowl with the rabbit.  Generally stir the ingredients together adding salt and pepper to taste.

Return the sauté pan to a very low flame and melt the remaining duck fat.

After the rillettes taste to your liking, pack tightly into clean one cup canning jars.  Pour about 1/8 cup of fat over the rillettes and allow to cool.  After fat has cooled, pour another 1/8 cup (or enough to cover) and top with clean lids and rings.  Store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or place in the freezer to enjoy later.

Here is a video of me demonstrating how to make the rabbit roulade.  My segment starts about 7.13 minutes into it.

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