Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Braised rabbit

When my daughter was old enough to have solids and most ingredients I stopped cooking separate meals for her and we started eating together as a family.

One day I made roast rabbit and cut the meat into small pieces for her to eat.

When she was about to put the first bite into her mouth, she asked me what it was.

"What is it?"

My husband and I looked at each other and for a split second wondered what we should answer. We were all too aware that she loved her bunny-shaped stuffed animals and her boardbook versions of Peter Rabbit and Guess How Much I Love You. But we decided to be true to our beliefs, to not lie to our children about food and where it comes from. So after the first second of hesitation, I answered in English:


She stopped short and put her fork down.

I knew it.

Then she pointed to the silver baby fork she was eating with and said "Babbit". Surely enough, on the fork were a duck, a rabbit and a pig.

I should've said chicken. I should've waited a little longer.

Then she picked up her fork again, stuck it in her mouth, chewed and exclaimed:


Before going into the oven

I may have already told you this story, but I can’t help thinking of it now that I am posting a recipe for rabbit, probably because I am aware that it is a controversial topic. I know some readers will click onto the next blog in disgust/horror.

In a lot of countries rabbits are eschewed as a protein source because they are cute, barnyard friends. The truth, however, is that we eat most of our barnyard friends, from cows to hens to ducks, so why make an exception for rabbits? In my opinion, you either eat meat or you don’t. I am not judging the  moral issue or personal taste. But if you are a meat eater, a chicken is as much an animal as a rabbit or a lamb, isn’t it? So, just because it ain’t as cute as Bugs Bunny, it is ok to go ahead and kill it?

After the oven
Also, if you eat meat, it is important that you understand where it comes from and how it ends up on your plate. Sterilizing the process by selling meat in aseptic cuts and unnatural shapes in plastic trays, or choosing to eat some animals and not others based on their appearance is just another way to distance yourself from your food source, making you less responsible of your actions. Let's face it, if you recognize the actual shape of a leg, if a fish is served whole instead of filleted, if you are eating an organ, you are more aware of the sacrifice that was made to feed you. So ultimately, eating responsibly and knowing what you are ingesting also tends to discourage waste. Maybe you will think twice about dumping that leftover piece in the trash if you are actually aware an animal was killed for your consumption. An animal (a cow, a pig, a hen, a lamb, a rabbit, a fish, even a horse!), not a pink unidentified rectangle of substance.

But back to rabbit. In Italy (and many other places of course), rabbit meat is quite common. They sell it at the butcher's and pretty much in any supermarket, usually near the poultry section. You can buy a whole rabbit, head on or off, or you can buy it quartered. Rabbit meat is a lean and healthy option for your diet. According to an interesting article I just read, rabbit has a low carbon footprint because they efficiently turn calories into pounds of meat (with the same amount of food and water they produce 6 lbs of meat vs. the 1 lbs produced by a cow). They are quiet and clean (much more so than chickens), and they eat leftover scraps and turn them into natural fertilizer, making them ideal as backyard animals for urban locavores.

They are also apparently much easier to butcher and clean than a chicken. Now I may just stick to buying mine at the supermarket and the truth is we cook rabbit because it tastes good but in today’s world of overconsumption I am always happy to learn about and consider all the other options out there for us.
I like braising rabbit because the meat is not at all fatty and tends to be a little on the dry side.
With this technique, it becomes pull-apart tender. You can use many different liquids, from wine to beer to marinades or tomato sauce, but this time I simply used vegetable stock. When the meat is ready you can serve it as a main course or make a delicious rabbit ragù by pulling it apart.

2 carrots
2 celery stems
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 cups (about 200ml) vegetable stock
Salt, pepper and flour to season
Olive oil

Season the rabbit pieces with salt, pepper and lightly coat in flour.
Drizzle some olive oil in a heavy based, ovenproof pot with a lid. When it is very hot, sear the seasoned rabbit meat until golden brown on all sides. Set aside.
Clean and finely chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and sauté in the olive oil until tender. Put the rabbit back in, pour in the stock and add the rosemary and bay leafs. Bring to a small boil and cover.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200°C. When the stock is boiling, transfer the pot to the oven and let cook for about two hours.

When the meat is ready, take out the rabbit, and cook down the liquid. I mashed the vegetables with a fork but you could blend them with a hand mixer or keep them whole. You can also add some butter and a little flour to thicken it into a gravy.

Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes, rice, couscous.


  1. I miss the wide availability of rabbit in Rome. Here it would be sold frozen. I adore it though and it always takes me back to the first time I ate it- at age 11 in a small hill town on Spain's Costa Brava- I'm literally right there with my whole family wishing that day would never end. Your recipe looks wonderful, and I must admit I have had trouble with it drying out, so I'm definitely going to follow your advice!

    1. I love how food is such a strong trigger of memory. They make a mean rabbit in Spain, I agree.

  2. You made a very good argument, but alas, I am one of those people who will eat certain animals and not others. To me a cow is food, a horse is transportation, chicken is food, rabbit's a pet, I would no sooner it rabbit than eat a cat. Although I'm ok with hare, which is a little weird, but probably just means I would eat a wildcat if it was readily available. Following the same (lack of) logic I eat pig (but detest boar). So yeah, a chicken is as much an animal as a rabbit or a lamb, but to me, it's a different category, it has a different purpose. Following your logic we should also eat all parts of the animal, and I know you do, but I can't, some parts are edible to me, some are not (like kidneys). In my humble (unfoodie) opinion eating meat is not so much about logic as it is about heart, alas. I'm sorry to say I won't be trying this recipe, but you could make it for me some time, just remember to tell me it's chicken!! baci

    1. I definitely do not question the fact of personal taste. If a person doesn't like something because of its flavor, who am I to judge? We are free to eat what we like. Some things taste too gamey or barnyardy to some people to eat it. I also understand why people may not want to eat cats or dogs, because they are pets to us. But if they roamed free and wild, we probably would eat those too, like the hare you mentioned vs. the rabbit. That said, watch out the next time I make you roast chicken, hehe! ;o)

  3. I love rabbit even if it is quite difficult to cook. It really needs to be cooked using a lot of liquid. Talking of which I should probably get that rabbit out of the freezer and cook it!

    1. I sometimes roast rabbit and I don't mind it but it can be tricky, I agree.

  4. I LOVE rabbit!!! They sell it frozen here, so I rarely buy it as there is no way our little family can eat a whole rabbit! If it was fresh, I would divide it in parts and freeze it in portions... if that makes sense! hehehe

    I agree with you... I love cows (they are my favourite animal, seriously), but I still eat them. I guess in the kitchen I am more "taste driven" than "heart/emotion driven"... ;-)

    Great recipe!!! I bet it would make a great ragu too as you suggested!

    1. I think I am taking the ragù route the next time.

  5. I totally agree with your point of view about meat, and it was really brave of you to answer so honestly to your daughter. My partner agrees in theory, but can't eat anything that looks too much like a 'corpse' to him. What can I say? I serve de-boned ossobuchi when I cook for him... And I did not give up when he begged me to free the crab in our fridge into the ocean.

    When we were children my mum would lie to my sister sometimes: she became fixated she liked shrimps but did not like langoustines. I believe 99% of people cannot tell the difference if they are served shelled. I also hope she lied to me about some food not containing anchovies, that I had decided I did not like, and did not really make a version without just for me.

    Lovely recipe, by the way. An average rabbit tastes much better than an average chicken to me.

    1. Oh, believe me, I have said a white lie or two or a hundred to get them to eat something. I just wait till they have eaten every last bite to tell them the truth. I always do in the end, but kids have the strangest food-related fixations and we just have to work around them sometimes.
      Also, I try not to cater to my children, but let's just face it, some things are just acquired taste.

  6. I LOVE your daughter's reaction! Made me smile :-) Unfortunately when I was little it was a different story - my parents' neighbour in Italy always used to leave us a whole skinned rabbit in the fridge when we arrived for the summer and I'd completely refuse to go near it! Now I love it - such a delicious, lean, flavourful meat.

    1. A whole skinned rabbit is not a pretty thing to look at, especially if it is lying in your fridge. It has a certain degree of romanticism hanging at the butcher's but in the fridge... eh, not so much...

  7. i couldn't agree more. I can see the argument for avoiding meat but if you're a carnivore, why spare one animal over another because it's "cute"? Anyway, I really like rabbit. It's much tastier than today's mass-produced chickens.

    1. Frank, I have been trying to leave comments on a couple of your posts, but cannot figure out how with the new layout! Help!

    2. Sorry you've been having trouble! And sorry for not getting back to you sooner. (I'm also juggling work and blogging!) The comment button is a bit hidden away on the new template--but I see that you've found it now.

  8. It's great when people can have a connection to what they eat. I know people that only like fillets because they don't want to see what the animal is. They're quite horrified when I bring out something on the bone or something like that. I'm glad your daughter tried it although I thought she might with a great mum like you :D

    1. Well, she does well with rabbit and then refuses the most common vegetables! But I'm sure she will grow out of that too.

  9. That's so great about how as a young family you would sit down to eat at the table all together. We're still struggling to accomplish that! I love the look of your rabbit dish. I've actually never cooked rabbit but I know it's something I need to add to my repertoire xx

    1. You really should try it, I am sure you would love it.

  10. You make a very good point about eating rabbit! I actually enjoy it very much, I just don't have wide access to it in our area. Next time I see it though, I'm making this wonderful dish!

  11. We love rabbit, so much so that it has replaced chicken in our house and we know where it came from because we shot it ourselves while helping out the local farmers.

    Weird as this may sound it actually makes us feel good that we are no longer contributing to the fear and suffering that goes on in the slaughterhouses, as one shot and the rabbit is dead, it knows nothing about it.

    Rabbit stew, roast rabbit etc. is now a staple meal in our house and any bits that we don't want to eat such as the offal, rib cage etc. either goes to the cats, dogs or ferrets, or is made into stock. We even keep the fur to line things like gloves. So there is zero waste.


Leave a suggestion, opinion or your own experience. I love hearing from you.