Rabbit in Mustard SauceIf you ask most people in the US if they would choose to regularly eat rabbit and you will most likely receive a negative answer. It’s hard for many to get past the fluffy cuteness which, though understandable, is unfortunate because rabbit can be very tasty. And, it is a much more sustainable source of protein than the other options out there.

Up until the early 1950s, rabbit was as common for dinner as chicken. Rabbit meat is what got many people through the lean times of the Great Depression. During WWII the government encouraged the raising of rabbits for meat in order to lessen the burden of the red meat shortage. After the war, the rise of big agriculture and government subsidies made raising rabbits for food less appealing fiscally.

Rabbit meat is very high in protein. A three-ounce serving of rabbit contains approximately 28 grams of protein. The same amount of beef or chicken contains 22 grams and 21 grams respectively. Rabbit is a great source of iron as well as being lower in fat and calories than chicken. It is also extremely low in cholesterol.

Another obstacle to the consumption of rabbit is their confusing anatomy—which can make rabbit difficult to eat if you are not familiar with their structure. Typically, a whole rabbit will break down into 8 pieces which consist of the front legs, hind legs, and the loin, or saddle. The saddle is the most tender part of the rabbit. The legs tend to be a bit tougher. Depending on your recipe, you might consider just buying specific parts of the rabbit instead of the whole animal. The saddle will be best for recipes with shorter cooking times. The legs are better for longer cooking times.

Purchasing a whole rabbit and cutting it up yourself is by far and away the cheaper option. Although, if you are trying it for the first time, it might be better to have your butcher do it for you. A tutorial on doing it yourself can be found here on Saveur.

A small rabbit will be enough to serve two people and a larger rabbit can serve three or four. The age of the rabbit can affect its size as well as the correct cooking preparation. A young rabbit is called a fryer and is usually 8 to 12 weeks old. They are very tender and are better prepared in a similar manner to chicken so as not to overcook them. A 15 to 20-week old rabbit is known as a roaster. These rabbits are better suited for slow cooking methods like braising or as the main ingredient in a stew.

In Europe, rabbit is eaten with regularity. And, if you are looking to try it, I would suggest recipes which reflect the great cuisines that can be found there. This recipe for Rabbit in Mustard Sauce is a perfect example.

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce Recipe
Adapted from David Tanis at Chez Panisse
Yields 8 servings

2 2-1⁄2 pound rabbits cut into 6 to 8 pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 pounds unsmoked bacon, cut into 1⁄4 inch thick strips
1 1⁄2 cups crème fraîche
3⁄4 cup Maille Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons crushed yellow mustard seeds
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 bay leaves

Marinate the rabbit (Can be done the day before.)
Season the rabbit pieces generously with salt and pepper and place it in a large bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Mix everything together with your hands until the rabbit pieces are well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour or place it in the fridge overnight.

If the rabbit has been chilled, allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 400 °F and arrange a rack in the middle of your oven.

Cook the rabbit
Divide the rabbit in a single layer between 2 shallow roasting pans. Top with any of the remaining marinade. Roast the rabbit until the juices have reduced and rabbit is cooked through (about 55 minutes). Turn the rabbit once and baste with the pan juices occasionally while roasting.

Set your oven to broil and cook until golden brown (about 5 minutes more).

Serve the rabbit with its pan juices.

Comments are closed.