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.

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Rabbit in Mustard Sauce Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 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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Links:
Braised rabbit from Stephen Cooks
Rabbit marinated in olive oil by Over a Tuscan Stove
Rabbit in red mole sauce by Marc of No Recipes
Collection of rabbit recipes from Hank of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

22 Comments

  1. Susan

    I haven’t had rabbit for years and years! I haven’t seen rabbit at the store, but haven’t really looked for it either. I’ll keep my eyes open for it, but in the meantime, I may have to try it with chicken first. Thanks for posting an alternative to the usual meat preparations. It’s always good to have a resource for different things.

  2. Melly

    I used to eat rabbit all the time when I lived in Wyoming. We’d go hunt them. They had a gamier taste.

    This recipe looks great and I so appreciate you posting how to break it down.

  3. Steve K

    I make a variation of this recipe that we have a couple of times a year. My recipe calls for poultry stock, rather than water, and about 2-3 cloves garlic. Once the meat is braised to the point where it’s tender, I pull it off the bone and add it back to the sauce. Rabbit bones are somewhat small and the pieces can be difficult to navigate if you’re not familiar with the meat, so this step just makes it easier to eat.

    This dish also great served over egg noodles or rice.

  4. Big___Al

    I did a search for rabbit at Wegman’s, and they have rabbit! Chocolate rabbit! I despare of finding any real bunny wabbits in a market around here.

    I am astonished that Wegman’s did not have rabbit in their frozen meat section! Try a butcher, or ask Wegman’s to order it for you. ~Hank

  5. Anna

    Where do you get wild cottontail rabbit? I’d love to order some wild rabbit; I’m not as interested in domesticated rabbits raised on rabbit chow. My cat would adore some ground raw rabbit meat and organs, too.

    I hunt, so that’s where I get my wild rabbits. Selling wild game is illegal in the United States, so you are out of luck unless you can find a hunter to share, or learn to hunt them yourself. Sorry! ~Hank

  6. Sylvie in Rappahannock

    Lapin a la Moutarde is one of my go-to fool-proof recipes for rabbit. Unlike Hank, I use domestic not wild rabbit, though. I baked mine in a hot oven for about an hour – whole – and when tarragon is in season I like to add some chopped one to the finishing sauce.

    As you say many variations, all delicious.

  7. Isabelle

    This is almost exactly the same recipe as the one my mother used to make.
    Funny enough, I’d actually forgotten about it until I saw this post… I think it’s a sign to find a butcher that sells rabbit so that I can dust off mumsy’s old recipe. Thanks for unearthing those old memories!

  8. Anne Maxfield

    I’ve made and love rabbit like this, but am looking forward to trying your version. The recipe I’ve used has you coat the rabbit with the dijon, and sear it, but this seems like it would make a more tender rabbit. Thanks!

  9. mantha

    Looks absolutely delicious — you can see the lovely little grainy bits of the mustard in the sauce. (Beautiful photo) It does seem like a great deal of mustard, but I guess the wine and cream tame it down a bit. I’ve only had rabbit in fricassees or stews, but I find it very tasty.

    “Crusty bread and a big white wine” is just plain fine writing — could be the first line of a poem (or a nouveau country song . . . )

  10. anna

    ps. my first time cooking rabbit. thanks for the inspiration! (i’ve tried most of your food on this blog..time for me to jump to your blog, i guess ;o) my local butcher had it, no problem. much easier to find than the Achiote paste…the rest of the ingredients i had. cool. now…if i can fool my kids that its chicken…thank you, anna (seattle)

  11. Lauren @ Delicateflavors

    Wow! What a delicious and rare recipe to have. The sauce looks so rich and yummy. I will have to look for rabbit at the specialty meat store and try this recipe for sure. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful dish!

  12. Zach Thomas

    Sounds great! I’ve never had rabbit, though, and as my folks quiver at the thought of even eating duck, I think I’ll be hard pressed to get them to try. Can anyone recommend a good entry-level rabbit dish — or is this a good one to start on?

  13. Matthew

    This made a really nice change from the usual chicken, beef, lamb, seafood… Very filling too.

  14. FB

    Making this recipe right now and the addition of thyme seems to be missing. Might wanna update your recipe. Just added it in with the simmer, only place is made sense really.

    Good catch! Yes, toss it in when you make the mustard sauce. I’ve updated the instructions. ~Hank

  15. Susan

    Excellent!

  16. rose

    made this tonight…yummmm.
    had to search out rabbit (why don’t our markets carry more fun meats like the french markets??) and bone up on my butchering skills, but it was worth it! i used fresh thyme and i wish i had used a bit more, and i think the meat could have cooked a tad longer to make it “fall off the bone” more, but this is a great recipe that i will definitely use again. i might use a tad less cream next time too…but maybe i let it simmer a tad too long and it reduced…who knows.
    anyway, for those thinking about attempting this, it is a great dish to make for company…it appears impressive without a huge amount of work (once you break down the meat!).
    thanks hank and elise!

  17. Justin Witt

    I made this tonight with a European hare (we have lots of them down here in Argentina) and was completely pleased with the results. Thank you so much for this wealth of information. I can’t wait to try some of the waterfowl recipes next!

  18. Harald Bruckner

    Thank you for this simple but elegant recipe.

    Just finished and my o my. Ultra tasty.

  19. Susan

    My husband bagged a rabbit for the first time yesterday. I asked the chef at the Spanish restaurant where we had dinner last night how to prepare the rabbit, and this is almost exactly what he told me to do…I’m thrilled to find a more precise recipe :) Looks delicious. I can’t wait to try it.

  20. Shannon and Kath

    We tried this recipe tonight – first time cooking with Rabbit, not the last! Delicious! Thank you.

    I think you could substitute thyme with tarragon if you wish. Also I agree that wild rabbit needs longer.

    But still an awesome recipe – and yes it would work very well with Chicken too. :-)

  21. Candace

    I thought this was great, but most of the kids did not like it (they are ketchup eaters tho). Also, I thought it needed quite a bit longer cooking to make it tender and these were domesticated.

  22. Guy d'Anjou

    I used all of the barn yard,to cook this recipe and served potatoes rissoleed in duck fat and asparagus with butter. Very yummy, and the rabbit was also reasonably priced.

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