Itâ€™s the Thursday after Easter and most people out there are still picking the candy and chocolate out of their teeth having just gorged themselves on all manner of Easter Bunny-shaped confectionery. Ever the destroyers of convention, we have been doing something altogether more real and, some may say, sinister. Yes, friends, cover your childrenâ€™s ears, for over the weekend, we — like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction — put the Easter Bunny in the pot.
Easter traditions have a lot to answer for in the removal of rabbit from the American table. It is no coincidence that around the turn of the 19th century, fifty years or so after German immigrants had brought the habit of fashioning rabbits out of chocolate and sugar to the New World at Easter-tide, the amount of rabbit being eaten in the US fell into an almost terminal decline. It is only really in the last fifteen years that it has returned, and even now is commonly regarded with suspicion and, in many cases, horror. For what could be crueler than eating a lovely, cute and furry bunny?
Now, lest you think us heartless carnivores, I should point out that I am a big fan of rabbits â€“ and I mean live ones. Not only did I have rabbits as pets for many years as a child and have very fond memories of how much fun they were, but I also believe that contrary to public perception, rabbits are in fact quite intelligent creatures with individual personalities and do make excellent pets.
So, you ask, how could I possibly, as my vegetarian sister puts it, â€œeat my friendsâ€? Well, readers, first of all, sadly, my rabbits both died nearly twenty years ago, so I am not (and would not) eat the rabbits that were my friends, and secondly, we did not put a pet rabbit in the pot as Ms. Close did, but rather we bought two skinned, headless and footless rabbits (at quite a hefty price) from a local butcher, rather like you would a couple of chickens. And, few, save perhaps fellow poultry, mourn the passing of a couple of chickens.
Then, to immortalize this fortunate (it was making an important contribution to our dinner – what an honor!) and extravagantly-priced creature, we prepared a delicious Provencal-style stew with olives, capers and tomatoes, the making of which we recorded to fashion our first We Are Never Full podcast! What better way to give thanks for the life of a noble beast than to prepare it for the hereafter with a savory, herby sauce and record this event for posterity in mp3?
But, regardless of your feelings about eating rabbits, it really was a truly memorable meal and an excellent recipe (see below). We hope youâ€™ll listen to the podcast and let us know what you think about our first, amateurish foray into the world of multimedia production. Weâ€™re planning more podcasts for the future and expect to get much better at it with every attempt.
Provencal Rabbit Stew with Olives and Capers (serves 4)
Rabbit can dry out quickly when cooked because it lacks fat, so this stew works perfectly to keep the meat moist and to tenderize it through long, slow cooking. We ate it with some boiled potatoes for the first meal, then over some tagliatelle as a ragu the second time. Either way itâ€™s delicious and would also work well over rice or just served with some crusty country bread.
1 large rabbit (2-3 lbs)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Â½ cup plain flour
Â½ cup smooth Dijon mustard + 2 tablespoons extra
2 cups coarsely chopped onion
Â½ cup coarsely chopped carrot
1 cup white wine (whatever you plan to drink with the meal)
1 large sprig thyme
1 medium sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1Â½ tsp tomato paste
5 finely chopped garlic cloves
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 16-0z can of whole, peeled tomatoes (tomatoes only, no juice)
Â¾lb brine-cured green olives (without pimentos)
1 can black olives, drained
Â¾ cup capers (large, not nonpareils)
Â¼ cup finely chopped/chiffonaded parsley
1. Preheat oven to 375F
2. Cut rabbits into 6 pieces: hind legs (2), forelegs (2) and center-loin/spine (cut in half) or have your butcher do this for you.
3. Brush the rabbit pieces with mustard and then dredge them lightly in flour, shaking off excess.
4. Put a large, high-sided ovenproof pot (we used our big enameled cast-iron Le Creuset) over medium heat and add olive oil.
5. Add rabbit and brown on both sides â€“ 2-3 mins per side or until golden brown. Remove and set aside
6. Add the onions and carrots to the pot and cook over a slightly higher heat until onions have some color. Sprinkle in the leftover flour, if any remains, and stir well into onion. (Additional oil may be necessary here if pan is dry.)
7. Deglaze pot with white wine over high heat and mix well to get all the crusty bits off.
8. Add the thyme, rosemary and bay, extra two tablespoons of mustard and tomato paste and garlic. Mix well.
9. Return rabbit to pot. Add plum tomatoes, olives and capers and add enough chicken stock to cover meat and vegetables by about an inch. Bring to a boil. Cover and braise in oven for 1Â½ hours or until meat has begun to pull away from bones.
10. Return pan to stove top and reduce sauce by about half. You may also thicken sauce with flour, if desired.
11. Check seasoning and sprinkle with the parsley.
12. Serve. Bowls are best, we found. Enjoy!
Thanks to Dean & DeLuca for the base of this recipe.
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