Want Sustainable Meat? Try Rabbit

Filed under: Special Ingredients , Tags: , — Author: Caron Golden , May 7, 2018

Rabbit is one of those meats that has yet to find a place on a mainstream U.S. menu. While it’s more commonly found in European countries, like France and Spain, just try to find it in a supermarket in the States.

And yet, farm-raised rabbit is a lovely, mild meat and lends itself well to a variety of dishes—if you know how to treat it. Because it’s so lean, it needs moist heat. And, because it’s so lean, it’s very healthy. Some call it the true white meat.

Rabbits are commonly braised or stewed—because of their leanness. If you have a whole rabbit, you can stuff the cavity with spices, truss it, sear it in fat, and cook it in a roasting pan or tagine surrounded by mire poix, stock, and potatoes. Not unlike cooking a whole chicken.

You can also break down the body. Trim the hind legs like chicken quarters by following the line and breaking at the joint. Cut the rest—a rather bony rib cage and a saddle attached to the spine—by cutting away the rib cage to use for stock and then cutting the saddle in half along the spine. Braise the pieces stovetop with olives and pine nuts or in the oven with stock, red or white wine, beer/ale, or cider, accompanied by root vegetables, earthy mushrooms, sliced apples, citrus, or herbs. Or, as a winter dish, cook it in a crust of Dijon mustard and horseradish.

If you do buy a whole rabbit, be sure to keep the liver and whatever fat you get. You can stuff the fat back into the whole rabbit when you braise it. And the liver? It’s sublime sautéed in bacon fat and sliced. You can also add it to flavor gravy or make paté.

Because rabbit is so lean, you have to be careful about not overcooking it. Be sure to use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. You want the temperature to reach no more than 145 to 150 degrees, then remove it from the heat and let it rest. The meat will continue to cook as it cools, and you should get a resting temperature of 160 to 165 degrees.

While braising is a virtually foolproof way to prepare and serve rabbit, don’t limit yourself to that; rabbit’s very versatile. How about making rabbit street tacos? This is a dish I learned from San Diego chef Karrie Hills. You can grill meaty legs outdoors or sear them on the stove and then finish them in the oven, flavoring them with the smoke from a cedar plank.

Once the rabbit legs are cooked, slice the meat from the bones and build your tacos with sliced avocado, cheese (Hills uses feta, but you can use whatever appeals to you), and pico de gallo. You’ll turn a conventional SoCal dish into something deliciously memorable and unique.

Rabbit Street Tacos

From Karrie Hills
Yield: 10 tacos

Ingredients
2, 8-ounce rabbit legs
1 tablespoon powdered galangal
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 orange, quartered
½ yellow onion, peeled and sliced
5 to 6 whole peeled garlic cloves
5 dried red chiles
3 sprigs fresh oregano
4 tablespoons butter

Cedar plank
10 small corn tortillas

For Pico de Gallo
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
¼ onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Juice from 2 limes
Pinch of salt

1 avocado, sliced lengthwise—enough for each taco
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese

Combine the galangal, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to make a rub. Pat dry the rabbit legs and apply the rub. Let set from 15 minutes to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in a frying pan. Heat the pan over high heat until the fat is close to smoking. Reduce to medium heat and add the rabbit legs. Brown three to four minutes on each side and, using tongs, pick up the legs and brown the edges.

In a baking dish, create a bed of the quartered orange, onion, garlic cloves, red chiles, and oregano sprigs. Top with the rabbit legs. Top with butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and continue baking for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature is 145 to 150 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest. The internal temperature should rise to 160 to 165 degrees.

While the rabbit is cooking, making the pico de gallo by combining all the ingredients.

Heat the cedar plank on the stovetop (you’ll need a gas stove to do this). Once it starts to smoke, place the rabbit on the plank and cover with foil to smoke while heating the tortillas. Melt more bacon fat or a neutral oil in a pan and sauté the tortillas.

Remove the rabbit from the cedar plank and pull the meat off the bones. Slice the meat (keep the bones to use for stock).

Make the taco by adding rabbit meat to the tortilla. Add a slice of avocado. Spoon on the pico de gallo, and top with crumbled feta. Garnish with cilantro.

Have you cooked with rabbit? What are your favorite dishes?

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