Having lived in France for quite a while now, I know there are few meals more satisfying or comforting than a Sunday lunch with wild rabbit stew. Back here in Australia I think the general aversion people have towards eating rabbit is such a shame, so I’m going to try to bring it back -starting with my home!
Now, I know what some of you are thinking, that rabbit is game-y or tough or messy or just no good. But that’s not true at all – as long as you get the right rabbit! A farm raised rabbit will not have quite as strong a flavor, for example.
If you can’t find rabbit – or really can’t stomach it – you can obviously substitute chicken. It won’t be quite as rich and strong in flavor, but this is still a delicious recipe!
With Dad on board, and Mum…wary, I set off on finding a recipe with a delicious gravy to cut back any “too strong” flavors.
Credit here goes to Anthony Bourdain, I’ve (just slightly) adapted this recipe from his Les Halles Cookbook.
RABBIT WITH OLIVES
4 rabbit legs or 800-1kg whole rabbit, prepared *
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
herb bouquet, attached with twine:
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme + 1 sprig, chopped
- 1 sprig of rosemary + 1 sprig, chopped
- 1 sprig flat parsley + 1 sprig, chopped
3 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 1/2 cup (350 mL) dry white wine
1/4 cup flour + 1 tsp
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup (55 mL) red wine vinegar
2 cups (450 mL) chicken stock
120 g large green olives, pitted
* As mentioned, you can use chicken. Here I would recommend 1 small chicken (1-1,2 kg), or 6-8 drumsticks. In this case you can get away with marinating for slightly less time – 1h should be more than enough.
In a large bowl combine: rabbit, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bouquet of herbs, peppercorns & wine. Marinate for 2 hours or more if you have time.
Remove the rabbit from the marinade and reserve liquid and vegetables separately. Dry the legs (important!) then dredge them in a mixture of the flour, salt & pepper. Brown legs in batches for 3-4 minutes on each side in a dutch oven or heavy-based enamel pot. Remove and set aside.
Caramelize the vegetables from the marinade over high heat in the same pot. When nicely browned (5-10 minutes), stir in the tomato paste and remaining tbsp of flour, mix well and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the vinegar and reserved marinade liquid. Cook at a simmer until the liquid is thick (10 minutes) then stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the rabbit legs and reduce to a very slow simmer.* Cook over low heat until the meat is very tender (anywhere from 1h to 2h).
Remove the rabbit and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid to remove the vegetables, some of which you can push through the sieve for a nice thick sauce. Put the rabbit back in the pot with the sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the olives and herbs, season with salt and pepper.
Serve with creamy mashed potatoes. This recipe makes great leftovers, too!
* You might need a simmer pad if your stovetop doesn’t get to a low enough temperature. The pot should just barely be bubbling away.