Braised Rabbit with Prunes

Have you ever made the Silver Palate 80′s classic, Chicken Marbella? It’s chicken cooked with prunes and olives. It’s amazing how the sweet prunes just melt into the chicken drippings. Prunes are an underutilized ingredient in my opinion. They’ve gotten such a bad rap that they aren’t even marketed as prunes anymore, but as dried plums, which is, in fact, what they are. Just dried plums. Like big fat raisins. Used in cooking, they can bring a deeply sweetly rich note to anything, especially meats. Rabbit cooked with prunes is a classic French dish, known there as “lapin aux pruneaux”. In this version we sear the rabbit pieces first in a little olive oil and butter, and then braise them in white wine with shallots, garlic, thyme, and prunes. Have you ever prepared rabbit? It’s a lot like chicken, both in the cooking and in the eating. In fact almost any recipe that can be made with chicken can be made with rabbit, and vice versa. The taste is just more subtle, and not “chicken-y”.

An optional step in this recipe, and one that I highly recommend, is to take the rabbit liver that should have come packaged with the rabbit, and purée it with a little vinegar, and then whisk it into the sauce at the end. Believe it or not, the liver does not impart any taste of liver to the dish, it just makes it richer, and the sauce thicker with a deeper flavor. This recipe works great for leftovers, much like a stew improves over a day or two. The prunes fall apart into the sauce and the flavors just blend together so every bite is wonderfully savory and sweet.

Braised Rabbit with Prunes Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Rabbit is available at many specialty markets, if not fresh then frozen, or can usually be ordered from your local butcher. Whole rabbits are harder to break down than chickens, so ask your butcher to part it out for you (you may need to call ahead so they can defrost one, if all they have are frozen rabbits). Or you can check out Hank's steps for cutting up a rabbit. This is a pretty basic rabbit with prunes preparation. You can easily dress it up with some stewed tomatoes and or olives. Some recipes call for soaking the olives in cognac and adding them in at the very end, which would be good too.

Ingredients

  • One 3 to 3 1/2 pound rabbit, cut into six to eight serving parts
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3-4 large shallots, sliced, about 1 cup
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine (or chicken stock with a tablespoon of vinegar)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) pitted prunes (dried plums)
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 rabbit liver (optional, should be sold with the rabbit)
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (optional)

Method

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1 Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a large thick-bottomed Dutch oven (I used a 5 quart) on medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter. Pat dry the rabbit pieces, sprinkle all over with salt, and working in batches, brown on all sides in the pan.

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2 Remove the rabbit pieces from the pan. Add the sliced shallots, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic clove and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the white wine and increase the heat to high. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine boil, until reduced by at least a half.

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3 Lower the heat to low (you may want to move the pot to the smallest burner on your stove). Arrange the rabbit pieces, prunes, thyme, and bay leaf in the pan. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste. Cover tightly and let cook for 45 minutes. (Cooking time assumes you are starting with a rabbit that has been brought to near room temp before cooking. If you are using a rabbit straight from the fridge, it may take a few more minutes to cook through. Also, if you keep lifting up the lid to check on the rabbit, it will increase the needed cooking time.)

4 After the rabbit is cooked through, if you want, you can intensify the flavor of the sauce using the rabbit's liver. The liver should have been included with the rabbit from your butcher, just like whole chickens come with the giblets. (Don't worry, the liver won't make your dish taste like liver. You can even try just a little amount to taste to make sure. The liver acts as a "liaison", thickening the sauce and making it richer.) Purée the rabbit liver with 1 Tbsp of vinegar (I used wine vinegar, but cider or white vinegar will do). Remove the rabbit pieces, prunes, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf from the pot (discard thyme and bay leaves) to a serving dish. Whisk the puréed liver vinegar mixture into the sauce in the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. (If the sauce is still too thin, you can thicken further with corn starch or flour.) Then drizzle the sauce over and around the rabbit and prunes.

Great served over egg noodles.

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Links:

Rabbit with prunes from Colloquial Cooking
Rabbit with Prunes and Olives from Cook Think
Chicken Marbella chicken cooked with prunes and olives

20 Comments

  1. Sippitysup

    Big fat raisins! I have such fond memories of a dish similar to this during a summer in France about 1985! Yikes I am old. GREG

  2. Jessi @ Quirky Cookery

    You’re so right about prunes being underutilized, especially in more savory dishes like for dinner. I know I always forget about them myself, but they bring such a nice sweet flavor that works so well with some items.

    I don’t have any rabbit on hand to try this recipe out, but it sounds like it’d be delicious with chicken, too, so I may have to try that.

  3. Debbie

    I may try this with chicken! I am interested in trying out the prunes, I mean dried plums, in a meat dish. Just don’t think I can do the rabbit thing. Maybe next year……

  4. Carol

    I love this recipe so, so much! A guy at my farmers’ market sells whole rabbits and I bought a few last weekend. Can’t wait to try this — thanks for posting it!

  5. Judi

    Wow, this looks delicious! Rabbit was on my “to do” list last fall and never rose to the top of the “done” list. This recipe will certainly help that process along this year. Can’t wait to try it!!
    Thanks, Elise!!

  6. Diana

    I am a prune addict. My mom used to hide them from me as a kid because I’d eat them until, well, you know. They were like candy to me! I’ve never had rabbit but this sounds really good. Where did you learn the trick with the liver? Does that work with other animals too? Seems like great way to thicken a sauce w/out cornstarch.

    Hi Diana, Hank first told me about this trick a while ago, and then I read about it in Larousse. My Frenchman also tells me that this is quite common, at least with rabbit. Don’t know about other meats. Perhaps chicken? ~Elise

  7. barbara

    We ate a lot of rabbit growing up which we trapped on our farm. I can’t bring myself to eat it anymore. Bryan has ordered it in a restaurant.

  8. Mary

    Love Chicken Marbella and this looks delicious, but after too many pet rabbits, I don’t think my children will go for this :(
    Mary

  9. The Starving Student

    Rabbit is such a great protein, but I only ever eat it in restaurants. I may have to take your advice and order it from my butcher!

  10. Paula

    I know that this recipie is about the prunes, of which I am a fan, but I have two big bags of dried figs that my Mother gave me and I wonder if figs would work with this dish. Any Idea?
    Thanks for the great recipies and photos!

    I think the figs would work great. In fact, we were just talking about trying this with figs since we also have a lot of them. ~Elise

  11. Christine

    I live with a person that is too caught up on the “its cute little bunny rabbit” thing and will not eat rabbit.

    So if I use chicken in its place should I go with breast or thighs? I’m not sure if rabbit falls in the dark or white meat category. Can’t wait to try it out.

    The flavor of domesticated rabbit is mild, so chicken breasts would probably come closest. But you have to take care that they don’t get dried out. I would brown them skin on, bone in, in a little less fat than this recipe calls for, given that the chicken skin is fatty. And then just spoon out any excess fat that gets rendered. ~Elise

  12. Liz Hughes

    I live for the silver palate cook book. It’s one of my cooking bibles! I grew up ten blocks from the retail store in Manhattan – so it holds a special place in my heart.

  13. Aden

    WOW! Elise, while I am a fan of rabbit, I haven’t ever seen it cooked like this. I am inspired now to make something special for dinner this weekend.. Now I need to hunt down some rabbit meat!!

  14. Kate

    Okay, either it’s probably just a crazy coincidence or, my preferred theory, we have a psychic connection. JUST last night I dug out my Silver Palate cookbook, which I don’t refer to that often anymore, to look up that exact chicken/prune recipe, which I did make once or twice back in the day! I was thinking I might want to make it again.

  15. Curt

    That sounds very good! Especially with prunes. I haven’t had rabbit in a long time.

  16. Andrea

    Tagine is another great dish that can be made with dried prunes or apricots. I have also been tinkering with a recipe for the dish that the main characters eat in the Hunger Games trilogy — a lamb stew with prunes. So tasty!

  17. Sara

    I tried this recipe last night, it was my first time cooking (and eating) rabbit. It didn’t really work out well for me… took a lot longer than was called for (almost twice as long) and just wasn’t too my taste. But it was an interesting experiment, and my boyfriend liked it. Maybe my lowest setting was a bit too low?

    Yes, it could be that your lowest setting was too low, or perhaps the rabbit was still a bit too chilled to start. ~Elise

  18. Nick

    I raise organic meat rabbits in Maine: Californian/New Zealand hybrids. And this dish will be perfect for dinner and left overs! A friend of mine from France approves and said he loves lapin aux pruneaux, so I’ll have to prepare this some time soon.

  19. rose

    made this a few weeks ago – LOVE IT. i happen to love rabbit and wish i could find it more often (i had to order it frozen). this dish has it all – savory, sweet, a bit more taste and game than chicken (yay!), and a nice sauce. only complaint? wish i could get rabbit fresh so the meat department would do the leg work of butchering the pieces! but thats not really a complaint…just commentary on our meat choices in america i guess.
    anyway, YUM. will definitely make again – thanks again elise!

    Hi Rose, I called our local butcher a few hours ahead of my going there and had them defrost a rabbit, so by the time I got there they could cut it up for me. The butchering process really is a lot harder with rabbit than with chicken. ~Elise

  20. Vanessa

    Staying in Barcelona and a great shop in the Gracia market has rabbits. They looked great, not too big ie force fed and a lovely healthy colour. Here they are very serious about preparing animals so I was given the liver and I asked for the kidneys too but refused the head. It is delightful to see such pride in preparation and nothing is too much trouble. All pieces cut to size and beautifully laid out. Made this dish and it was sublime. Repeated it tonight but cooked it too quickly. Important that the rabbit is slowly cooked for the 45 minutes and to seal the pot with foil under the lid to keep all the moisture in. A seriously good dish. Thanks

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