Next-up, Rabbit!

Up until recently, I envisioned rabbit as something that would be served during the Autumn or Winter months.  However, with the crazy weather we have been having here in Minnesota, where one day it’s 80 degrees and the next day it’s 40, it seems that May is a good time to cook and serve rabbit as well; at least this year.

I am also very fortunate that the same friends that provide Bret’s Table with copious numbers of fresh, organic, free-range eggs are slso the ones that raise delicious rabbits. And no, we are not talking about Fluffy or Bugs though occasionally, some people say that I laugh like Elmer Fudd.  Anyway, enough with the innuendos, get your hands on my rabbit and enjoy this Provençal inspired recipe.

Yield: Makes 8 servings
Notes for greater success:

Although rabbit is frequently compared to chicken in terms of cooking methods and times, be careful not to overcook it. Unlike chicken, perfectly cooked rabbit meat should still be slightly pink near the bone.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups bread crumbs from day old French baguette
2 (2 ½  to 3-pound) fryer rabbits, cut into 8 serving pieces each, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups French Chablis or other dry white wine, more as needed
2 cups pearl onions (frozen)
One bouquet garni (fresh thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and parsley with stems tied together with butcher’s string)
3 pounds new or fingerling potatoes
½ cup Niçoise olives (optional)
1/3 cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, (optional)

Over a medium fire, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter in a large enameled cast iron French Cocotte until hot but not smoking. While oil is heating, season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper. Sauté pieces on both sides until brown.  This can be completed in batches so as not to crowd the pot.  After browning, remove rabbit pieces to a platter.  Coat one side of each piece with mustard and top with the bread crumbs, dividing evenly.  I actually used brioche bread crumbs that I had in the freezer.

After all the rabbit has been seared off, reduce heat to medium and melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the Cocotte.  Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

Add ½ cup wine to pot and scrape up any browned bits.  Return rabbit pieces to the same pot, along with the bouquet garni, olives, and potatoes.  Pour in remaining wine, being careful not to pour it directly on the rabbit.  Drizzle remaining olive oil over rabbit pieces.

Cover and cook in a 350ºF oven, until rabbit is just tender, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove rabbit to a warm platter.  Discard bouquet garni.  Reduce liquid to desired consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in crème fraîche and parsley.  Serve rabbit and potatoes with sauce along side it.

Photograph by David Schmit

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