There’s no easy way to present this. I do my best to share recipes that will appeal to the whole gamut of peoples’ food preferences but I also realize that rabbit will only appeal to certain types of people such as hunters, squirrel-eating Southerners and carnivorous Europeans.
So I’m offering an apology to anyone who would rather poke their eye out with a fork than eat rabbit. Just remember that the people referred to above might feel the same way if served with tofu mousse.
As an aside, I was once presented with the challenge of getting someone to eat this dish and was told “Never in a million years will you get him to eat rabbit!” – so I creatively referred to it as ‘wild hare’. For some reason that worked and the aforementioned aversionist polished off two servings.
Moving on, this is a really delicious small game dish and I still use the original hand-typed, marinade-splattered recipe that was given to me 40 years ago. In this case it doesn’t technically count as game, because the oven-ready rabbit I cooked here was farmed.
There are numerous versions of ‘Lapin aux Pruneaux’ – that’s French – and this has to be one of the simplest which appeals to my lazy chef’s heart.
I used a slow cooker but I’ve also made it many times in a heavy casserole (dutch oven) with a lid.
If you’re working with whole rather than sectioned rabbit, you’ll need a pair of poultry shears. It’s not too different from cutting up a chicken but rabbit is an unfamiliar shape, so try and keep the portions about the same size. You also need to start 24 hrs ahead to allow the rabbit to marinate.
Be prepared to impress and be impressed.
RABBIT BRAISED IN RED WINE WITH PRUNES (Lapin aux Pruneaux)
One rabbit (cut into 4-6 portions)
3/4 pint (half a liter approx) of good red wine. I used a fruity Zinfandel
A few whole black peppercorns
A few juniper berries, lightly crushed
A good sprig of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1.5 oz (40g) of all purpose / plain flour
2.5 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
12 oz (340g) of ready-to-eat prunes
1 heaped tablespoon of redcurrant or elderflower jelly
2 oz (56 g) of butter
Put the rabbit portions in a large bowl and add everything else except for the prunes, butter and redcurrant jelly. Cover and chill overnight or up to 36 hrs.
If you aren’t using a slow cooker, preheat the oven to 325F (160C)
Remove the rabbit pieces, reserving the marinade – pat them dry.
Heat the butter in a heavy sauté pan and when it sizzles, add the rabbit pieces and brown them on both sides. With a slotted spoon, transfer them to a slow cooker or heavy casserole dish.
Add the flour to the butter in the sauté pan and stir well, creating a ‘roux’. Cook, stirring for a minute or so then whisk in the marinade (removing the peppercorns and juniper if you prefer) and continue to whisk over a medium low heat, until you have a smooth sauce. Pour this over the rabbit, stir in the prunes and put the lid on.
Turn the slow cooker setting to ‘high’. Cook for 3 – 4 hours, or until the rabbit is tender.
Otherwise put it in the oven, covered for about 2 hrs, or until the rabbit is tender.
Note: keep some extra wine to hand. If it looks like the liquid is reducing too much in either method above, just pour in some more. Sometimes these things can be a bit approximate but adding more wine is never a bad thing.
Just before serving, stir in the tablespoon of redcurrant jelly and finish with a sprinkle of chopped flat leaf parsley.
Any leftovers will taste even better the next day – just warm through gently.
I like to serve this with Duxelles mashed potatoes and perhaps some duck fat roasted parsnips.