At a time when buzzwords like "organic," "local" and "sustainable" are driving the market, rabbit is ripe for resurgence. The animals require few resources to raise and have a well-known reputation for quick breeding.
According to Slow Food USA, rabbit can produce 6 pounds of meat using the same amount of food and water it takes for a cow to produce only 1 pound. Not to mention the health benefits. Rabbit is a lean meat that is higher in protein but lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than many other meats, including chicken, beef and pork.
But how does it taste?
Domestic rabbit's all-white meat is fine-grained and has a mild flavor compared with other game meats.
RABBIT STEW WITH PRESERVED PEARS WITH GINGER
4 hours, plus marinating time for the rabbit. Serves 4 to 8.
PRESERVED PEARS WITH GINGER
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup unsalted chicken broth
3 large Bosc pears (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the ginger, sugar and wine. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup is reduced to 3 tablespoons. Add the broth and bring to a boil, stirring.
Meanwhile, peel, halve and core the pears. Arrange, cut sides down, in a single layer in a large buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the lemon juice. Pour the syrup over the pears.
Bake, uncovered, until golden brown and glazed, about 45 minutes. Baste often with the syrupy juices. Sprinkle with the remaining lemon juice. If not used at once, set aside at room temperature for up to 8 hours and reheat gently before serving; do not refrigerate.
3 large shallots, halved
2 cloves garlic, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups dry white wine, divided
2 rabbits, cut into serving pieces (about 4 pounds dressed weight)
1/3 cup rendered duck or goose fat
5 ounces lean salt pork, blanched in water for 5 minutes and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 onions (about 3/4 pound), thinly sliced
Scant 1/2 cup Dijon mustard, divided
2 egg yolks
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Preserved pears with ginger
In a large glass or non-reactive bowl, combine the shallots, garlic, olive oil and half of the wine. Add the rabbit pieces and turn them over until well-coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 days, turning the rabbit pieces once or twice a day. If the rabbit is frozen, defrost it directly in the marinade.
About 3 hours before serving, remove the rabbit pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade, reserving the garlic and shallots separately from the liquid.
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the fat. Saute the salt pork, transferring the pieces to a 4-quart casserole as they are browned. In the same skillet, brown the rabbit pieces a few at a time, on both sides, transferring them to the casserole as they are browned. Sprinkle the rabbit and the pork cubes with the herbs, salt and pepper.
Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet. Add the onions to the skillet along with the reserved garlic and shallots. Saute over moderately high heat, stirring to avoid burning, until soft and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in one-third cup of the mustard with the juices in the bottom of the casserole until well blended.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions, shallots and garlic to the casserole. Deglaze the skillet with the strained marinade liquid and bring to a boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups wine and return to a boil. Skim again and pour the boiling liquid over the rabbit and onions. Cover with crumpled wet parchment or waxed paper and a tight-fighting lid.
Set the casserole in the oven and cook until the rabbit is meltingly tender, about 2 hours. (To avoid stringy rabbit, do not rush the cooking; if the rabbit is not tender, let it slowly finish cooking in the oven.) Remove the rabbit pieces to a warm bowl; cover and keep moist. (The recipe can be done up to this point in advance. Leave the rabbit pieces in the sauce. Gently reheat, then remove the pieces to a warm bowl and continue with the recipe.)
Strain the cooking liquid, pushing down on the vegetables to extract all their juices. Quickly cool the liquid and remove any fat that surfaces. Place the juices in a heavy saucepan over moderately high heat and bring to a boil. Shift the pan so that only half of it is over the heat. Slowly boil down to 1 cup, skimming often.
About 5 minutes before serving, whisk together the egg yolks, nutmeg, remaining mustard and cream in a small bowl until well-blended.
Whisk a few tablespoons of the hot reduced cooking juices into the egg yolk mixture, then whisk the mixture back into the saucepan. Heat gently, whisking until the sauce thickens. Do not allow the sauce to boil. Add the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the chives.
Spoon the sauce over the rabbit and serve hot with the preserved pears with ginger.
Nutrition per each of 8 servings: 860 calories, 60 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 46 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 261 mg cholesterol, 17 g sugar, 589 mg sodium.
1 hour, 20 minutes plus chilling times. Serves 2 to 4.
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons minced thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces
2 cups buttermilk, more if needed
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
4 to 6 cups lard
1 large onion, sliced into thick rings
In a deep, medium bowl, combine the kosher salt, lemon zest and juice, minced thyme leaves, several grinds of black pepper and garlic to form a rub. Add the rabbit pieces to the bowl, massaging the rub all over each piece. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or at least several hours.
The next morning, pour the buttermilk over the pieces and gently toss to coat; the buttermilk should barely cover the rabbit; if not, add just enough to roughly cover. Cover the bowl again and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
Season the flour: Place the flour in a large bag, bowl or baking dish, and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper. Taste the flour, and adjust seasoning if desired.
About 1 hour before frying, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Remove each piece of rabbit from the buttermilk, shaking gently to remove any excess buttermilk (do not attempt to dry the pieces). Dredge each piece in the seasoned flour mixture, coating completely. Shake to remove the excess flour, and set the pieces aside on a rack to dry and warm to room temperature.
While the pieces are resting, prepare the lard: Place about 4 cups lard in a large, heavy skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Melt the lard; it should come up about one-half to three-fourths inch up the side of the pan (melt additional lard if needed). When the lard is just melted, add the onion rings and continue heating the lard until the onion is caramelized and the lard is hot. Remove the onion and check the temperature of the lard; a thermometer should read 350 degrees.
Gently place the pieces in the hot lard, being careful not to crowd. Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and fry the pieces on each side until crisp and golden brown and the meat is firm and opaque, about 5 minutes for smaller pieces and 7 to 8 for larger. Flip the pieces over and fry on the other side until done (a thermometer inserted in the meat should read 160 degrees).
Remove the pieces from the hot oil and drain, skin-side up, on crumpled paper towels. Repeat until all of the pieces are fried.
Serve the pieces hot or at room temperature.
Nutrition per each of 4 servings: 687 calories, 62 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 29 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, 3 g sugar, 1,221 mg sodium