Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

Simply Recipes contributor Hank Shaw and I “met” years ago over a comment he made about rabbit on Michael Ruhlman’s blog. I hounded him for a rabbit recipe back then so I’m delighted that he is sharing this French classic with us now, Lapin à la moutarde, or Rabbit in Mustard Sauce. ~Elise

This is a French country classic, and there are endless variations. All are good. Some recipes bake the rabbit, others braise it, as I do. The keys are mustard—good grainy mustard, not the bright yellow stuff you get at the ballpark—shallots, and something creamy. I use heavy cream, but some people use crème fraiche, others sour cream.

Rabbit has a mild flavor that is all its own. Think chicken breast, but with a slightly different flavor. It is one of my favorites, although I mostly use wild cottontail rabbits. Domestic rabbit is readily available frozen in good supermarkets, and any decent butcher can get you some. And yes, if you are skeeved out by rabbit, use chicken instead. But rabbit is better.

Rabbits usually come whole, and if you don’t know how to break them down yourself, ask the supermarket butcher to do it for you. This gets a little harder with frozen rabbits, so I’ve posted step-by step instructions on breaking down a rabbit here.

  • Prep: 30 minutes
  • Cook: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4.

You will probably get the kidneys with your rabbit. It is your choice whether to keep them or not. I always do, and I think they are the second-best part of the animal after the hind legs. Rabbit kidneys are mild in flavor and are a warm, soft, rabbity morsel in this dish. If you choose to use them, strip off all the fat, as well as the gossamer membrane that surrounds them.

Ingredients

  • 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces (see How to cut up a rabbit)
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup grainy country mustard, like Dijon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Method

1 Salt your rabbit pieces well and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

2 Heat the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan with a lid. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and brown them in the butter. Do this at a moderate pace – you don’t want the butter to scorch – and don’t let the rabbit pieces touch each other. Do it in batches if you need to. Once the rabbit is browned, remove it to a bowl. Add the shallot and brown it well. This will take 3-4 minutes.

3 Pour in the white wine and turn the heat to high. Scrape off any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the mustard, thyme and water and bring to a rolling boil. Taste the sauce for salt and add some if needed.

4 Add the rabbit pieces, coat them with the sauce, then drop the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes. You want the meat to be nearly falling off the bone. It might need more time, but should not need more than an hour total. Wild rabbits sometimes need more time.

5 When the meat is ready, gently remove it to a platter. Turn the heat to high and boil the sauce down by half. Turn off the heat and add the cream and parsley. Stir to combine and return the rabbit to the pan. Coat with the sauce and serve at once.

Serve this dish with crusty bread and a big white wine, such as a white Bordeaux, white Cotes du Rhone blend or a buttery California Chardonnay. If you prefer beer, try pairing this with an unfiltered wheat beer.

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