Rabbit stew

I've been dying to try my hand at cooking rabbit and ideally, I would be able to cook up one that I've hunted myself as my favorite local hunting forum shows several guys successfully harvesting rabbit all the time. However, as I have no gun right now (it's in the shop having a firing pin repaired) along with other issues re: prepping wild rabbit ... Bisher's meat shop it is!

They carry everything from frog's legs to venison sausage:


Here's what the rabbit looks like in the package - these all come from a farm in Arkansas:


And here's the rabbit before butchering.  You can see a tutorial on how to butcher a whole rabbit here.

BUTCHERING A RABBIT
André Baranowski
Cutting up a whole rabbit for braising (see The Waiting Game) requires a bit of know-how. Here are six easy steps for separating a rabbit into eight pieces.
1. Lay rabbit on its back and grasp one hind leg. Cut along seam where leg joins body, carving inward to separate thigh from tailbone.
2. Grasp foreleg on the same side; cut flush against the neck bone to sever leg. Repeat the two previous steps on the other side of the rabbit.
3. Using your fingers, locate rib bones, count up two bones from the tail, and cut between the second and third rib bones on both sides of the rabbit to release two flaps of meat on either side of the saddle, the rabbit's loin. Using a cleaver, sever the rib cage section from the section comprising saddle and flaps, cutting through the backbone. Discard rib cage section. Sever and discard tailbone from body where it meets saddle.
4. Using the cleaver, cut saddle in half lengthwise through backbone.
5. Then make a crosswise cut, roughly at the top of the flaps, to separate the saddle section into quarters.
6. There will now be four saddle pieces of equal size, two with flaps of meat along the lower part of the loin and two loin pieces attached to the backbone.


Braising the rabbit pieces in butter and olive oil:


Browning the pieces:


This particular recipe calls for lots of root veggies and herbs cooked in red wine.


Here the chopped veggies cook with wine before adding the rabbit back in:


The perfect plate for serving rabbit stew?  How cute!
 

And finally, the finished product, after adding some prosciutto and mushroom, served over mashed potatoes:


You can see the whole recipe at Saveur.com, here.* I did process the heart, kidneys, and liver into the gravy as directed and I think it added a very rich earthy flavor, though to be honest I probably liked the rabbit itself the least out of anyone in the family!  The kids loved it, I think because it was very chicken-breast like.  But I found it so lean that I need to experiment next time to keep it from tasting as lean as it is.  

Happy cooking!

*RABBIT STEW WITH RED WINE (CIVET DE LAPIN)
Celebrated chef Jean-Louis Palladin, formerly of Jean-Louis at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., grew up not far from Cahors in south-western France. His recollections of a childhood spent eating wild game and mushrooms inspired him to develop this recipe for SAVEUR.
SERVES 6
Ingredients
4 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 (2 1⁄2-lb.) rabbits, each cut into 6 pieces; hearts, kidneys, and livers reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 leek (white part only), washed and trimmed
2 carrots, peeled
1 turnip, peeled
2 celery stalks
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 1⁄3 cups dry red wine, such as cahors
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 lb. pearl onions, peeled
1 tbsp. sugar
1⁄4 lb. pancetta, julienned
1 lb. small white mushrooms
Preparation
Melt 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Season rabbit with salt and pepper, then brown in batches, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Remove rabbit with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce heat to medium, add onions and garlic, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Chop leek, carrots, turnip, and celery, and add to pan. Add rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 7–10 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 15 minutes. Add stock and rabbit, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
Remove rabbit with a slotted spoon and set aside. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer, skimming occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Add hearts, kidneys, and livers. Simmer until firm to the touch, about 5 minutes, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a food processor. Strain cooking liquid into food processor (discarding vegetables and herbs) and purée until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper and set aside.
Wipe out skillet, then add pearl onions, sugar, remaining butter, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until most of the water evaporates, about 15 minutes. Stir to coat onions in syrup, and cook, stirring, until onions begin to caramelize, 2–5 minutes. Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat, add pancetta, and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms, and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.
To assemble, strain sauce through a fine sieve into large skillet. Add rabbit and warm over medium heat. Add pearl onions, pancetta, and mushrooms and heat through. Serve warm.

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