Nowadays, most people have overcome the notion that they’re eating Bugs Bunny, and rabbit has entered the restaurant menu mainstream. So it’s high time for the home cook also to return to this versatile, succulent meat, although I must say that whenever I cook with rabbit my Bassett hound will not leave me alone—some olfactory race memory really kicks in.

Although it’s not especially difficult to bone rabbit, you might as well ask your butcher—nicely, when (s)he’s not too busy—to take the meat off the bones of two rabbits for you, explaining that you need 1 to 1 1/2" pieces of meat.

Meat from two young 3 to 3 1/2 lb. rabbits, cut into 1-1 1/2" pieces
(see above note)
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

8 slices good smoked bacon, cut into 1/2" pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 grinds of black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme, plus one teaspoon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-large onion, diced
1 1/2 cups Marsala wine
1/4 to 1/2 cup good brandy
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
Several fresh gratings of nutmeg
3-4 tablespoons creme fraiche

1 lb. cooked, well-buttered, and parsleyed broad egg noodles
Peeled, seeded, and diced plum tomatoes (optional garnish)
Fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional garnish)

In a sealable plastic bag, marinate the rabbit in the buttermilk, mustard, and rosemary mixture overnight, turning the bag once or twice.

When ready to proceed, discard the marinade and shake the wet rabbit pieces in doubled paper bags with the flour, corn meal, salt, pepper, and thyme to coat thoroughly. Let the pieces rest on waxed paper.

In a deep skillet, hopefully large enough to hold the rabbit pieces in one layer, fry the chopped bacon over medium heat until fairly crispy. Rapidly remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Carefully add 2 tablespoons of butter to the bacon drippings. The moment the butter foam subsides, add the rabbit pieces in a single layer without crowding, and brown them for about 4 minutes on both sides. (Fry the rabbit pieces in two batches, if necessary.) Remove the meat and keep warm.

Remove all but 4 tablespoons of fat. Still over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until tender, 8 minutes. Off heat, carefully pour in wine and brandy, and stir with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes, scraping up the brown bits.

Add thyme, shiitakes, and nutmeg. Stir and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens somewhat, about 3 minutes.

Return the rabbit to the skillet and lower the heat to the simmer. Stir gently to coat and let the ragout bubble for a few minutes. Stir in creme fraiche. Serve at once over piping hot buttered noodles, garnished with diced tomato and fresh chopped Italian parsley.

Yield: 4 servings

Copyright © 1999 - 2007 by Tom Steele. All rights reserved.