You know, there's a certain generation (or two or three) here in the US that thinks of rabbit as an exotic meat. I certainly belong to it--my exposure to rabbit has been pretty much through pet shop windows.
But lots of folks eat rabbit on a regular basis--in fact when I was contemplating serving it to my book group a member who was raised in Australia said she would "never eat rabbit again, ever". It's also popular in the UK--and if you've ever wondered where the term "rabbit punch" came from, that's how you kill a rabbit quickly and humanely--a sharp blow to the back of the head.
There go the vegetarians, if they even read this far. Sorry, vegetarians!!
Anyway, one of the many charms of Market Basket is that they have a kick-ass butchery, and now that there's a new one in Gloucester I've been cruising their meat aisles on a regular basis. One a recent trip I saw rabbit (fresh!) and made a mental note...yesterday went back and it was nowhere to be found. I asked one of the butchers and he led me to the sort of case where you get frozen turkeys-I guess they didn't move all that quickly so he froze them. We got a 3 lb. rabbit, took it home, and I used a warm-water bath to thaw it quickly.
I know, it is a little weird. If you've cut up chicken, cutting up rabbit is kind of the same except there's this long part in the middle they call the "saddle". I've actually only cooked with rabbit one other time and it was already butchered for me so I was busting out the heavy knives and the kitchen shears. The recipe asks you to divide it into 8 parts so I split the hindquarters and the saddle, then cut the forelegs away from the breast, which I also split.
The recipe, Rabbit in Mustard Sauce, is a French bistro classic according to the head notes. And the technique is very familiar to me, not so much from my cooking experience as my eating experience--this is the way my dad cooks--cooking meat stovetop and making a pan sauce.
Here's the searing part:
After you take the meat out you deglaze the pan with a knob of butter, and saute a few chopped shallots...then add dry white wine and reduce by half. Add chicken broth and rabbit, bring to a boil, and cook for 40-45 minutes.
Then take the rabbit out, whisk in mustard (equal parts dijon and whole grain) and a cornstarch slurry. Add chopped parsley and rabbit et voila!
The potatoes are my own addition--I had cooked them on the side but they were just begging to jump into that mustard sauce so I obliged.
Minor triumph--O'Malley and his girlfriend Li ate this and loved it. You never know with teenagers which way it's going to go! They kept saying it was just like chicken, which everybody says, and that's because it's true. I was actually surprised at how much the breast meat was the same--if you had just presented it to me on a plate I would have bet vast sums that it was chicken. And just as a side note this is the sort of thing that I project onto Top Chef--me in some sort of quickfire challenge, incorrectly identifying rabbit as chicken. Please tell me I'm not the only person who does that!!!
P.S. sorry for the crappy photos. I try to do better than that!