Rabbit Cacciatore

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

The first time I had rabbit, I was 19, visiting a friend’s grandparent’s ranch in Cuernavaca, Mexico. They raised rabbits, among other things, and I was asked to go outside and pick out a few from the hundreds in their pens. Not knowing why I was asked to perform this task, I picked out the cutest ones I could find. An hour later I was mortified when I went in the kitchen and saw those rabbits, skinned and sticking out of a huge steaming pot on the stove. The menu for lunch that day was rabbit stew, and we were having a feast with my friend’s extended family. White linens, silver, fine china, 20 people assembled at an impressively long dining table. Out of politeness, and my complete lack of fluency in the language (if I had been more fluent I might have found a way out of this situation) I took a bite. It was absolutely delicious. From that point on, I loved rabbit.

People often compare the taste of rabbit to chicken. I think it has the texture of chicken, particularly of chicken thighs or legs, but it really doesn’t taste like chicken. It has its own wonderful taste. Years ago it was much more common to cook rabbit, and more easy to find it at a butcher shop. But these days, in the era of chicken and supermarkets, you likely need to go to a specialty market to find some. This rabbit recipe is an easy to make cacciatore, or a “hunter style” stew, which is typically made with either chicken or rabbit.

Rabbit Cacciatore Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-5.

Whole rabbit is much more difficult to part out than a whole chicken. If you can, have your butcher cut it for you.

Ingredients

  • One 2 1/4 lb rabbit, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 Tbsp dried)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Wondra flour works great)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 3 cups of chopped, very ripe tomatoes (or canned plum tomatoes)
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 16 salt-cured olives, black or green, pitted

Method

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1 Sprinkle the rabbit pieces generously with salt and pepper. Rub half of the thyme leaves into the pieces, then sprinkle with flour to lightly coat. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high. Place the rabbit pieces in the pan in a single layer. Do not stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side until lightly browned, then turn the pieces and brown on the other side for a minute or two more. Remove the rabbit pieces to a dish to set aside.

2 Reduce heat to medium. Add onions to the pan, cook for 1 minute. Then add garlic, bell pepper, and mushrooms, cook for a couple minutes more. Add the rosemary and the remaining thyme. Add the rabbit back into the pan. Cover with chopped tomatoes and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium low; cover the pan and cook for 35 minutes.

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3 Uncover the pan, add the olives. Increase heat to high and cook for several minutes to boil off excess moisture and reduce the sauce. When the liquid has reduced by half, check the seasoning, add salt or pepper to taste, remove from heat and serve.

Serve with rice, pasta, or potatoes.

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Recipe adapted from a chicken recipe by Georgeanne Brennan.

Links:

Rabbit with spring vegetables from Béa of La Tartine Gourmande
Rabbit stew with dumplings - Jamie Oliver's recipe posted on Serious Eats
Saddle of rabbit in applewood-smoked bacon with caramelized fennel - ala Thomas Keller, recounted by Carole of French Laundry at Home
Coniglio alla cacciatora by Sean of Hedonia
Rabbit with Pea and Fava Bean Purée from Nose to Tail at Home
Portuguese Rabbit Hunter Style - from David Leite

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6 Comments

  1. jack burton

    There are many families who raise bunnies for their meat source all around the country. Most of them would be happy to sell some of their ready-to-butcher young rabbits to someone in the neighborhood. They will usually butcher and dress it for a little extra money.

    Finding them can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, though. The local 4-H club might be able to give a source for you.

    I just finished a bowl of rabbit soup for lunch. I am diabetic and rabbit is considered a very good meat for me. High in protein and other good stuff but low in cholesterol and fat.

    Be sure to know the age of the rabbit when butchered. The ideal age for tenderness is 4 to 8 months. After 1 year they work best in a longer cooked stew or soup, or made into sausage.

  2. Rick

    If you’re near Brooksville FL I can hook you up with young, tasty rabbits.

  3. Alex

    I made this with a few slight changes (because I can’t follow a recipe to save my life). I added some Rotel chilies and shredded the meat instead of cooking it in chunks. It was absolutely delicious. Thanks for posting this recipe!

  4. Hank

    Thanks for the link, Elise! I can attest that frozen rabbit is just as delicious as fresh, so go to the freezer sections of your local high-end (or at least middle-end) supermarket and you’ll find them. And almost every reputable butcher shop will either have rabbit or be able to get it for you.

    I will have to cook a hare for you some time, Elise. Totally different animal; they are red meat, like a light-colored beef. Deeply, deeply savory…

  5. Kerry

    If you are having trouble finding rabbit locally, you can find reputable online sales of this toothsome treat. A google search of “rabbit meat sales” will yield some sources. I have ordered some in the past that arrived frozen and well packed in gel-packs and pre-cut. I will order it again.

    For those who want to know; I used ardengrabbit.com out of South Carolina and I was happy with the result. Note that it does take time and planning to get the meat delivered. The website you choose should make this detail clear in their shippping section.

  6. Brenda

    This really sounds and looks delicious. When I was young, my Dad would take me hunting with him and we hunted squirrels and rabbits. He was very good at hitting what he aimed at so we would always have enough to share with the neighbors when we got home. After we cleaned them, Mama would put the meat in salted water and let them soak over night. The next day she would boil the cut up rabbit or squirrel, whichever we had, until she could stick a fork through the thickest piece. When she could do that she would take the meat out, let it drain then dredge the pieces in flour and fry in oil in an iron skillet. When it was brown, she would take it out and make a roux with a little flour in that same pan and then use some of the water, that they were boiled in, poured into the roux to make gravy. I know this sounds long but it is well worth it. It isn’t as fancy as your recipe but it was good eating when I was younger. Love your blog.

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