Rabbit 5 Ways and Counting
When I tell people we're cooking rabbit, I usually get squeamish responses like, 'Thumper?' Bambi killed rabbits for so many of us, and that's a shame because for a long time rabbit was the meat. A chicken in every pot is often inaccurately attributed to Herbert Hoover, but the fact is the same - nowadays Americans eat a lot more chicken than rabbit, and it used to be the other way around.
It's too bad, really. Rabbit meat is lean, virtually fat-free, and they're abundant, prolific breeders that grow really fast. But when I went looking for rabbit in our area, I discovered another reason they're uncommon: they're not cheap. Expensive rabbit defies logic. It's a little smaller than a chicken, but easily 2 - 3 times as expensive. Well, let me clarify that. US-raised rabbit is expensive. I saw rabbit from China for under $10 apiece. US-raised rabbit's going for over $20 apiece in my area, sometimes closer to $30. That's crazy talk. No wonder.
That began my quest to find a local producer of rabbit from whom I could buy in larger quantities. Not all for myself, mind you. When word got out that I'd found a breeder, requests came in. I picked up a dozen on my first visit, but not before I spent some time looking at how they lived and how they looked alive. I was impressed and relieved, except for the few moments when she handed me a tiny 2 week old Chinchilla rabbit to carry while we were looking at the others.
I drove home thinking about the bunny and about all the dinners we had planned. We had visions of pates, soups, roasts...and plenty of inspiration from Fergus Henderson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Over a two-week period we made 5 different dishes, some successful and others not so much. But the rabbit meat was as I expected. Clean, lean, and really nice to use.
We started with simple rabbit burgers. The next day, T made a beery rabbit and duck terrine that we nibbled on with friends. Because it was gelatinous we couldn't freeze it so we turned the leftovers into rabbit pot pies and a rabbit and garlic soup. T also made a terrific Jugged Hare - sort of a variation on Coq Au Vin except with rabbit.
We've still got one or two more whole rabbits in the freezer, and I think after taking a few days' break we'll pull one out for rabbit and mustard sauce. What comes next? Probably another trip to the rabbit lady. And another cuddly bunny visit.