Saturday, April 18, 2009


Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

Now that Easter is over, it is safe to present a bunny dish. And not of the chocolate variety. Rabbit is often overlooked as a game option, it seems, even though there seem to be more television chefs presenting it to viewers. Rabbit is lean, and it has an undeniably savoury flavour. It is a surprising meat to present to guests. Actually, I don't really hear people talk about eating or cooking rabbit when sharing kitchen tales. Perhaps people are too afraid of others' reactions to say that they like rabbit, but I really think rabbit has fallen by the wayside as an option for dinner (well, for urbanites in New Zealand and in the US (as far as I recall). I hope this post will help change the tide a little bit.

The important thing to remember about cooking rabbit is that it has no real fat, so it has to be helped from going dry. Like most dry food, rabbit goes terribly stringy when cooked for too long and without an adequate provision of fat. As it is gamy and very savoury, it responds quite well to strong ingredients, such as garlic, woody herbs, and mustard, as in today's recipe.

This rabbit dish is really a riff on a typical bistro dish (in the best sense of the term). It is creamy, heady, and gamy. In all, the texture of the rabbit immersed in the cream makes for a comforting dish, so no one should turn their noses up at it, unless of course he or she is vegetarian or has an attachment to fluffy bunnies.

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

1 small rabbit, approximately 1 kg (2lb), cut into 4 natural pieces (breast and legs)
60g/2oz unsalted butter
1 leek, thinly sliced cross-wise
2 anchovy filets
1 tablespoon juniper berries, lightly crushed
300ml white wine
150ml cream
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

1) Preheat oven to 170 C/325 F.
2) Season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper.
3) Put butter in frying pan, and over a medium-hot flame, add the rabbit pieces. Each size to be bronzed before turning over.
4) Remove rabbit and all butter but for 2 tablespoons liquified butter.
5) Add leek and anchovies, and cook until leeks have softened.
6) Add juniper berries, wine and bring liquid to the boil, then lower temperature to a simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
7) Add rabbit pieces and bring liquid to simmer again.
8) Cover with foil, then place in the oven for 40-50 minutes until cooked through, turning the rabbit pieces over once.
9) Remove rabbit to a warm plate, place frying pan over medium heat and bring to the boil until syrupy (you could strain the liquor before, in order to remove the onion, if you prefer a smoother sauce).
10) Pour in cream and simmer until slightly thickened.
11) Whisk in mustard and add lemon juice to taste.
12) Add rabbit pieces back to the pan, simmer for 10-15 minutes, then serve.

My angelheart Eric and I love the quality that juniper berries bring to gamy dishes. Their alpine freshness cut through the intensity of flavour that some people might find hard to take at first bite. Knowing that game is not to everyone's liking, the addition of juniper berries helps make rabbit more palatable. Cream, of course, is to most people's liking and distracts a little from rabbit's savouriness. In the spirit of sharing (conversion), I am all for introducing mitigating factors, but the truth is that you can dispense of the juniper berries and even the anchovies for a gamier tasting dish.

I hope this is a good introduction to rabbit. Let me know how you get on.

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Well thank you for this post Shaun. I did not grow up eating or even hearing of people eating rabbit until I moved to Barbados a little over a decade ago. I bought it once but had to idea how long to cook it for, I thought that I'd cook it for the same time as chicken but that was a mistake.

Thanks for the recipe and your notes on how to make this dish and cook rabbit. The next time I see some in the supermarket I'll have a go at it again.
Cynthia ~ Rabbit isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it is underused here, given that some parts of the country are overrun with them. It makes a nice alternative to other white meat, and it does not take that long to cook, which is a good thing.
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