"Rabbit is probably the biggest divider between our two nations" says chef Raymond Blanc. "The French on one hand view rabbit as food; the British as a pet (non edible). This dish was eaten every other Sunday. I clearly remember Maman Blanc having misty eyes as she fed her rabbits every day. This cooking technique can be used for any meat. Of course, any of your favourite herbs could be added to the dish, and any vegetables too. Olives and wild mushrooms would be a lovely addition. Once you understand the technique you can use any type of meat you wish, from chicken to crocodile – actually, sorry you can’t, it’s an endangered species."
To prepare rabbit
- 1 x 1.5â€“2 kg whole farmed rabbit cut into 14 pieces (1 x head, 1 x neck, 2 x shoulders, 2 x legs, 3 x saddle, 3 x rib cage, 2 x belly, see Note 1)
- 4 pinches crushed black peppercorns
- 20 g Dijon mustard
- 4 pinches sea salt
To cook rabbit
- 60 g unsalted butter, plus 20 g extra
- 180 g onion, cut into 6 wedges
- 8 garlic cloves, skin on
- 150 g small button mushrooms
- 8 whole black peppercorns
- 2 sage leaves
- 2 tarragon sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 30 ml white wine vinegar
- 200 ml white wine, boiled for 30 seconds, reserved
- 150 ml water
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat oven to 120°C. In a large bowl, season rabbit with salt and crushed peppercorns. Add mustard and stir to coat rabbit.
Heat half the butter in a large heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over medium heat until lightly foaming. Cook legs, shoulder pieces, neck and head on each side for 7–8 minutes (see Note 2). Repeat in a separate pan with remaining butter and saddle, rib cage and belly pieces and then transfer to a plate.
While rabbit is cooking, heat extra butter in a small saucepan on medium. Cook onion, garlic, mushrooms, peppercorns and herbs for 10 minutes, until lightly golden (see Note 3). Season after 2 minutes. Add vinegar to rabbit and cook until liquid is reduced to a syrup (see Note 4).
Add garlic, onion and herbs to legs, shoulder, neck and head, then add wine and the water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook in oven, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add browned saddle pieces to pan and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Remove rabbit and vegetables from casserole dish. Heat liquid on high, until reduced by one-third. Pour sauce over rabbit, top with parsley and serve with French beans, Swiss chard, braised lettuce or any other seasonal vegetables.
1. First get to know your rabbit! Try to find the best breed. I like Rex de Poitou or "Label Rouge" breed. Their weight can be from 1.5 kg to 2 kg. Ask your butcher to prepare this for you. Wild rabbits, will weigh from 800 g to 1.2 kg and will take a little longer to cook than farmed ones, so add an extra 30 minutes to the cooking time until the meat just falls off the bone.
2. This must be done on a medium heat. You can actually hear the gentle sizzling of the butter. This must be done in one single layer and while the butter is beautifully browning the meat, the juices are leaking out, caramelising on the base of the pan which will create the rich flavour for your sauce. Do not stir the rabbit, let the pieces brown slowly. Sure, I could easily cook it in hot oil, but it would never get the same flavour.
3. Through gentle heating and sweetening you are translating the carbohydrate and starch into sugar and flavour. I am sure you all have tasted the difference between a raw onion and a cooked onion.
4.This is the main danger in the dish. The idea is to reduce down the vinegar and coat the rabbit in it. If you under reduce the vinegar, then you will have a sauce that is too acidic.