Braising is a great option when cooking rabbits, as the lean meat is best cooked slowly. This recipe calls for the rabbit backstraps to be wrapped in pancetta. Dried wild mushrooms, which are a must-have for the pantry, add an earthy flavour to the dish.
- 30 g dried wild mushrooms (see Note)
- 1.5 kg farmed rabbit, jointed (see Note), brought to room temperature
- 120 g thinly sliced flat pancetta
- 70 g cold butter, chopped
- 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
- 250 ml (1 cup) dry white wine
- ½ bunch thyme
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- 8 eschalots
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 juniper berries
- 2 bay leaves
- 140 g (¾ cup) pitted prunes
- 200 g Swiss brown mushrooms, quartered
- steamed baby green beans and crusty bread, to serve
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.
Drink match 2009 First Drop’s 'The Big Blind' Adelaide Hills Nebbiolo Barbera ($27), 2008 Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo ($45), 2010 Josef Chromy Pepik Pinot Noir ($20) or 2008 Joseph Drouhin Laforet Pinot Noir Bourgogne ($25).
Preheat oven to 150°C. Place dried wild mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 125 ml (½ cup) soaking liquid. Rinse mushrooms to remove any grit and set aside.
Meanwhile, tightly wrap rabbit backstraps in pancetta (there will be some left over) and refrigerate until needed.
Melt 40 g butter and 1 tbsp oil in a large casserole over medium–high heat. Season remaining rabbit with salt and pepper, and cook with remaining pancetta, turning, for 5 minutes or until rabbit is evenly browned. Add wine and cook for 1 minute to cook off alcohol. Tie half the thyme with kitchen string and add to pan with chicken stock, whole eschalots, three-quarters of the garlic, juniper berries, bay leaves, prunes, wild mushrooms and reserved mushroom liquid. Season, bring to the boil, then turn off heat. Cover surface with a cartouche with a small hole cut in the centre, then cover with a lid. Transfer to oven and bake for 1 hour or until meat is tender.
Carefully strain braised rabbit mixture in a colander set over a large saucepan. Transfer rabbit mixture to a deep platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Place sauce over high heat, bring to a rapid boil and cook for 12 minutes or until reduced by two-thirds. Reduce heat to medium, then whisk in the remaining 30 g butter, one piece at a time, until butter is incorporated and sauce is shiny. Season. Remove from heat and pour over rabbit mixture.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook backstraps, turning, for 4 minutes for medium or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with foil and rest for 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 tbsp oil to pan and cook Swiss brown mushrooms for 3 minutes. Pick leaves from remaining thyme and add to pan with remaining garlic. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until mushrooms are golden. Season.
Slice backstraps into 3 cm pieces and add to rabbit mixture with mushrooms. Serve with green beans and crusty bread.
• Dried wild mushrooms, from delis, are a mixture of chanterelles, trompettes, cepes and morelles. Substitute just dried cepes (porcini).
• Ask your butcher to joint the rabbit for you, cutting the back legs into two pieces and removing the two backstraps, leaving you with 8 pieces in total, including the front legs.
Photography by Brett Stevens. Styling by David Morgan.
As seen in Feast magazine, Sept 2011, Issue 1.