When my butcher recently let me know they would be getting fresh rabbits I was a little hesitant. Not only had I never cooked a rabbit before I had never even eaten rabbit before. When I lived in Scotland it wasn’t uncommon to see rabbit on a menu (or on a cookery show) but I had never actually ventured down the rabbit role. After a few minutes debating I decided I would give it a try. My butchers wife assured me it was delicious and she is never wrong 😉 Plus a recipe search would be the mindless distraction this past week called for.
Once I finally worked up the nerve to tell T. we’d be having rabbit over the weekend… let’s just say he wasn’t overly enthused. Fair enough I suppose BUT being the good prairie boy that he is he really should be fine with a little rabbit – no??
I decided that I would play it safe when cooking the rabbit and stick with flavors we like. Initially I thought I would play it very safe and classic with a recipe for braised rabbit from Julia Child. I was very stuck on various versions of rabbit in a mustard sauce, but since T. was already uncertain about the rabbit I wasn’t going to push it too much with cooking it in a mustard sauce. Yes the boy from Saskatchewan (one of the worlds largest producer of mustard) also does not like mustard. Another great contradiction of my dear hubby.
Like my other experiments within unfamiliar meats (see pork jowls & cheeks) the rabbit pulled me out of my comfort zone and challenged me. I wouldn’t say the recipe I choose was particularly difficult I was just uncertain about the cook of the meat and did not want to end up with a tough, chewy mess for dinner. In the end the rosemary, tomatoes and bacon (yes I cheated and used bacon instead of pancetta) smelled amazing as this cooked. With a simple parmesan polenta it was a delicious meal that would be great on a family table – just tell the picky eaters it is little chickens! I’d definitely recommend this dish as a great introduction to rabbit.
I served mine with polenta, but this would be equally as good with crusty bread and a green salad.
PS T’s reaction.. “this is much better than I thought it would be”.. high praise I suppose!
Tuscan Rabbit with Pancetta and Rosemary
- 1 whole rabbit (1.5-2 kg), jointed or cut into 8 pieces - ask your butcher to do this
- 2 tbs plain flour, seasoned
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 1 onions, finely chopped
- 6 slices flat pancetta, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 small (~400g) can diced tomatoes
- 1 small (~400g) can cherry tomatoes
- 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves chopped
- 2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Dust rabbit in flour, shaking off excess.
- Heat 2 tbs oil in a frypan over medium heat and cook rabbit, in batches, for 2 minutes each side or until golden. Place in a baking dish.
- Heat remaining 1 tbs oil and cook fennel, onion, pancetta and garlic, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until soft and golden. Add wine and the vinegar, and simmer for 3-4 minutes until reduced by half. Add tomatoes and rosemary, season and bring to the boil.
- Pour over rabbit, cover and cook for 1¼ hours or until rabbit is tender.
- To finish toss through chopped parsley and plate with polenta
*Adapted from a taste.com.au recipe