Rabbit Braised in Belgian Ale

Fall comes to Sacramento later than much of the country, but come it does. The winds blow and the leaves scatter and all one wants for dinner is a warming stew. In this recipe we are braising rabbit, over onions and celery root, in a sauce of Belgian ale and whole grain mustard. It’s a carbonnade of sorts, but with rabbit, and is perfect alongside crusty bread to sop up the sauce or over a batch of egg noodles.

If you are unfamiliar with cooking rabbit, you can often find whole frozen rabbits and specialty markets. If you can, call ahead and have the butcher defrost and part out the rabbit.

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Rabbit Braised in Belgian Ale Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

Many markets carry whole frozen rabbits. Call ahead to have your butcher defrost and cut rabbit into parts. Otherwise, defrost by by placing into a large bowl of cool water. Once thawed, cut into parts (see these instructions). Try to remove any stray little bones at the edges of some of the cuts of rabbit.

The dish works best with a Belgian ale. If not available, try Newcastle brown ale or Anchor Steam ale, or O-Doule amber ale if you need to avoid alcohol. Do not attempt this recipe with a hoppy beer.

Ingredients

  • One 2 1/2 to 3 pound rabbit, cut into 6 to 7 serving pieces (2 front legs, 2 back legs, the loin cut into 2 to 3 pieces), plus ribs and flap meat
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour for dredging
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 medium onions, sliced stem to root (about 2 1/2 cups sliced)
  • 4-6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen string (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 1/2 cups of Belgian ale, such as Chimay or Ommengang
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 celery root, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons whole grained mustard
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Method

1 Place rabbit pieces on a platter, sprinkle both sides with kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

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2 Place flour on plate. Dredge rabbit pieces in flour. Heat oil and butter in a large  Dutch oven on medium heat (large enough to fit rabbit pieces in a single layer). Once the butter is melted and foamy, add the rabbit pieces in a single layer to the pot.  Brown on one side without stirring for 5 to 6 minutes. Then turn the pieces over and brown on the other side. Remove to a plate.

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3 Add the sliced onions to the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown, scraping up and browned rabbit bits from the bottom of the pot. Add garlic cloves and thyme, cook until onions are soft and the garlic quite fragrant.

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4 Increase the heat to high and add the Belgian ale. Let it simmer for a minute or two, then add the stock. Add a half teaspoon of salt and the freshly ground black pepper.

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5 Place the diced celery root over the onions in a single layer. Place the browned rabbit pieces over the  celery root. Bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to maintain a very low simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the rabbit is just cooked through and tender.

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6 Remove rabbit pieces from the pot and keep warm on a platter. Increase the heat to high and reduce the liquid by one third. Then, reduce the heat to low, stir in the mustard and sugar. Taste and add more salt and pepper in needed. Slice the flap meat pieces of the rabbit into strips and return to the pot. Strip away any available meat from the back and chest parts and return meat to the pot. Add the serving pieces to the pot. Cover and let rewarm for a minute. Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.

Serve with crusty bread, egg noodles, or rice pilaf, along with some Belgian ale.

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Links:

Italian Braised Rabbit on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Rabbit Confit from Leite's Culinaria

La Mamma and Her Braised Rabbit on Chez Pim

Rabbit Stifado on Kalofagas

Coniglio alla Sanremasca (Ligurian Rabbit, Sanremo Style) from Samurai Viking Cuisine

19 Comments

  1. natale

    Could you swap the rabbit with a chicken without changing too much else in the recipe?

  2. Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate

    Back when I used to eat meat I tried rabbit a couple of times and quite enjoyed it. I had it at Bouchon Bakery in Napa and remember it like it was yesterday. Rabbit boudin blanc with a crispy rabbit cake of sorts, with fresh pluots from the garden across the street.

  3. Gerry @ Foodness Gracious

    I love homey style dishes like this, it creates a different type of feeling around the dinner table. Love it!!

  4. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    I’ve never had rabbit before and this dish is definitely beckoning me to do so — soon :)

  5. Christina

    We have bunnies a plenty hoping around here – great recipe!

  6. Sarah

    Do you think this would work with a hard cider instead of the ale? It seems like it would but I have never cooked with rabbit.

    • Elise

      Rabbit tastes very similar to chicken, so if a recipe works with chicken, it will likely work with rabbit. Have you cooked chicken with hard cider? For this rabbit recipe I think it would work. I would just make sure to really boil off the alcohol.

      • mike jackson

        thank you Elise I will get a yellow squash instead of the green I’m assuming spaghetti squash is not sweet? Thank you for your input

  7. Marijke

    Instead of flour, try the Belgian trick: spread the mustard on a slice of bread and place on top (mustard side down).
    Another variation: replace the celery with prunes and mushrooms for a sweeter variety. It will also color the rabbit very nicely. Serve with green beans and potato croquettes.

  8. Sues

    I’ve never cooked rabbit, but this looks beautiful!

  9. Saski

    Why do you salt the rabbit first and let it sit for so long? Won’t this just draw moisture out and dry an already very lean meat?

    • Elise

      Great question! Chef says this best in her seminal Zuni Cafe Cookbook, “Initially, salt does draw moisture from cells – whence the widely accepted belief that it dries food out. However, the quiet trauma of osmosis is temporary. With time, the cells reabsorb moisture in reverse osmosis. When they do, that moisture is seasoned with salt…. What is more, that intruder salt changes the proteins ~ they “open up,” enabling them to entrap more moisture than before.” She has more to say on the subject, but the bottom line is that if you salt early, the result will be better.

  10. Sonya

    This looks great! Want to use for a dinner party. Will do a chicken so I can feed more people. Should I just increase infredients according to the size of the chicken (total pounds)? How much should I increase cooking time?

    Thanks!
    Sonya

  11. Miguel

    I received the recipe in my email last week and decided it was perfect to make it for a couple of friends – very good cooks both of them – that were visiting us. Kind of a challenge…What a great success!! The sauce is out of this world…. Everybody loved it! My wife and I are not very fond of celery root so we used carrots, added well late in the cooking process to avoid overcooking. However I think you can use potatoes, mushrooms and would be great as well. Used Chimay beer (blue). Rice pilaf and green salad with pomegranate as sides. Fantastic recipe and amazing flavor. Next time I will try with chicken though, rabbits are getting expensive in Texas (I do not why since there are plenty of them…..). Thanks Elise.!!

    • Horacio

      Hi Miguel.
      You should have put your friends names (at least mine / Horacio). The rabbit really turn out great. In fact, I´m doing it today (jan, 24th 2014) with a Destilo beer (a local beer) and I hope it will be as good as yours.
      Till the next rabbit or chicken or whatever you cook next time.

  12. LINDA DOBINSON

    I made your Rabbit Braised in Ale (didn’t have Belgian) and it was fantastic !
    I followed your great instructions to the “T” and wouldn’t substitute anything in that sauce. However, I did incorporate egg noodles and 1 Cup of frozen peas at the very end – just to warm with the rabbit pieces and it turned out perfectly. My husband and I enjoyed this right out of the pan, in front of the fire.
    We will definitely treasure this recipe.
    Thanks for a great date night !
    Linda

  13. Rob

    We tried this for Christmas dinner and it turned out great! As an fyi, we subbed bacon drippings for the oil and mushrooms for the celery root – delish! thanks very much for your help.

  14. Courtney

    This recipe worked out phenomenally well. So much flavor to develop in such a short time!

    The only ingredient change for me was the addition of some espelette pepper powder to punch it up a bit – though it would have been just as delicious without. I also opted to remove the loins and flap meat from the ribs entirely – I found it easier to brown the pieces that way.

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