To shine, rabbit needs to surround itself with ingredients and cooking methods that are demure. This is one such recipe. I draw my inspiration for it from chef Paul Bertolli, a master of braised meats who notes that rabbit is one of the few foods that really doesn’t benefit from browning the way say, duck or lamb does. That caramelisation, the mighty Maillard Reaction we all know and love, strips rabbit of much that is special to it.
- 2–4 cottontails, 2–3 snowshoe hares or 2 domestic rabbits (see Note)
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil
- 1 onion, sliced root to stalk
- 125 ml (½ cup) white wine or vermouth
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 6 garlic cloves, roasted
- salt, to season
- 10–20 green olives, pitted, halved
- ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves
- mashed potatoes, polenta or rice, to serve
Quick rabbit stock
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 10 juniper berries, crushed (optional)
- 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
- salt, to season
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.
First you must break down your rabbits into serving size pieces. Save the stray bones in the pelvis, ribs, belly flaps and neck for the stock.
To make the stock, place all the rabbit pieces – not just the stray ones – in a pot and cover them with cool water by about 1 cm. Bring this to a boil, then turn off the heat. Skim off any sludgy stuff that floats to the top. Fish out all the good pieces of rabbit – legs and saddle – and put them in a bowl in the fridge. Add the remaining stock ingredients, return everything to a bare simmer and cook for 1 hour. Strain stock and set aside.
Now find a heavy, lidded pan, such as a casserole, and heat the olive oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent (do not brown them). Add 250 ml (1 cup) rabbit stock, the rabbit pieces from the fridge, the white wine, the thyme and the roasted garlic. Bring to a simmer and season with the salt. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan and cook until the meat is tender, about 1½–2 hours.
Finish the dish by adding the green olives and fresh parsley. Cook for 2–3 minutes and serve with the mashed potatoes, polenta or rice.
• Domestic rabbits are available from specialty meat suppliers.
Recipe from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook by Hank Shaw, with photographs by Holly A. Heyser.