cheffed up

'R' is for Rabbit

This little bunny became dinner

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One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is Dr. Seuss's ABC. I've often thought how cool it would be if he'd written a foodie version. For instance, A is still for alligator but, instead, the text would be: Any Angry Alligator is Absolutely Awesome for dinner. B is for Brunch, where the Beautifully Braised, Black-footed Bresse Bird provides a Bodacious Bite. Big C, little c, What begins with C? Catfish, Carrots, Cinnamon ... and onward through the alphabet we would continue until, finally, one of my all-time favorite letters arrives on the scene. If you guessed R, you are a genius! R R R R what begins with R? R is for rabbit, DUH, as in Ridiculous, Rich, Roasting, Rabbit in the Rondou. Well, unless you're Elmer Fudd, and then it's a W.

I bet most of y'all have never even eaten rabbit, and it's not just because you're a bunch of shoemakers who won't try anything unless it comes from a drive-thru. Here's the real reason: Americans were never landless peasants.

In Europe, rabbit is a very popular protein enjoyed as much as beef is enjoyed here. One reason for this is that most European culinary traditions were developed before the industrial revolution, in a time when the majority of Europeans were landless peasants. Think about it for a second: Cattle need lots of land, rabbits need only a small hutch, and rabbits breed like ... rabbits. It's like having a whole cattle ranch in a box.

The second, and more important, reason is that rabbits are incredibly delicious. The lean, delicate, succulent flesh lends itself to an extraordinary number of culinary preparations, from simple homestyle recipes to complex Cheffed-Up charcuterie.

I love to turn people onto rabbit. Once, while doing a promo event at Downtown Art Walk in my former job, I prepared samples of rabbit rillettes with whole grain mustard, candied shallots and cornichons on mini-brioche. These were free samples, yet I still had to convince people to try them. Most would say, "You mean bunny, ewwww." Yet after giving these toothsome samples a try, they were hooked and I became their new hero. It was as if I were Palette Man to the rescue and their taste buds were forever improved.

Today's recipe is a wonderful example of a traditional French bistro dish. Give it a try and check out my Instagram #ameliacooking for a pic of my version of the Cheffed-Up letter B. Big B, little b. What begins with B? B is for Beautifully Butchered Bunny.

Chef Bill's Braised Rabbit with Dijon

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil (or as needed)
  • 1 rabbit, cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into lardons
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bouquet garni (4 thyme sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, 2 bay leaves)
  • 1 oz. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Heat oil on medium in a Dutch oven. Season rabbit pieces with the salt and pepper and brown on both sides in pan. Remove rabbit, add the bacon, sauté until brown, remove and save for a garnish.

2. Add shallots and ginger to the pan; sweat.

3. When shallots turn translucent, deglaze the pan with the wine, reduce au sec, add the water, stock, Dijon and bouquet garni.

4. Return rabbit pieces to the pan, bring to a simmer, then place in a 325˚F oven for about 30 minutes or until the rabbit is tender.

5. Return the pan to a burner, add the heavy cream, reduce the sauce until slightly thickened.

6. Serve over buttered fettuccini and garnish with bacon.

Until we cook again,

Chef Bill Thompson

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Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina's Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at cheffedup@folioweekly.com, for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!

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JThomasSon

So, Chef, where do I go to find rabbit? Do I have to go to a specialty butcher or can I actually find it at Publix or the like? (I live in northwest St. Johns county.)

I've had rabbit just a few times in my life, but did enjoy it. I have a nice French braiser pan and would love to try a braised rabbit recipe sometime. Tuesday, April 10|Report this