Rabbit is underappreciated in this country.
We wish that wasn't the case: Its mild flavor makes it versatile in just about any preparation—and is a more interesting protein to work with than chicken. Rabbit is best cooked low and slow and serves as an ideal stewing meat for the cold winter months. (And it conveniently cooks a lot faster compared to its other braising counterparts such as lamb shanks and beef, making stew less of a time-suck.)
This one-pot wonder has many elements. Shallots and quince slowly cooked in bacon fat. Rabbit that's been marinated in luxurious crème fraîche, then braised with a bit of wine and scented with bay leaves, orange peel and thyme. Roughly chopped gremolata for a bright finish. It all comes together in one beautiful stew.
To learn more, read "Splitting Hares."
Braised Rabbit with Crème Fraîche, Bacon and Quince
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 2 servings, plus leftovers
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time
Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, plus marinating time
For the Braised Rabbit:
1 rabbit (about 2½ pounds), cut into 6 pieces (see note)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups crème fraîche
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 quince, peeled and finely diced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 2-inch strips orange peel (peeled using a vegetable peeler)
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup water
For the Gremolata:
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1. Make the rabbit: Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper place in a large bowl with the crème fraîche. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Remove the rabbit from the refrigerator an hour before cooking to bring the meat to room temperature.
3. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat just begins to render but the bacon is not yet crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic and quince and cook, stirring often, until the shallots have softened and the flavors have melded together, 12 to 15 minutes.
4. Place the thyme, bay leaves, orange peel and black peppercorn in the center of a triple layer of cheesecloth. Gather up the ends and tie using kitchen twine to form a bouquet garni. Add the bouquet garni to the pot and and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the white wine and reduce by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved rabbit with the crème fraiche and the water and bring to a simmer. Cover the dish and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, rotating the pot every 20 minutes. Transfer the rabbit pieces to a clean plate; reserve the pot and cooking liquid.
5. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid thickens and becomes velvety, 20 to 30 minutes. Return rabbit to the pot and toss to coat until heated through.
6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make the gremolata: Combine the parsley, lemon zest and red pepper flakes.
7. To serve, arrange the rabbit pieces on a platter and garnish with the gremolata.
Note: Ask your local butcher to cut the rabbit, or cut the rabbit as follows: Using a cleaver, cut the saddle into 2 pieces. Carve out the 2 front legs through the backbone, then carve out the 2 hind legs. Remove the kidneys, liver and heart and sauté with sliced shallots and a splash of brandy for snacking (optional).