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