Rabbit are often available at specialty markets, fresh or frozen, or can be ordered by your local butcher. If you can find fresh rabbit, have your butcher piece it out for you. Otherwise, see How to Cut Up a Rabbit.
Alternatively, you can simply brown the whole rabbit, and put it into the stew whole. Then remove it later and pick off the meat.
There is an optional step to making this stew taken from classic French cooking (Antonin Careme) that transforms a good dish into a great one. Mash the rabbit or chicken’s liver, mix it with crème fraiche or sour cream, then push it through a fine sieve.
The result is a pink slurry that will thicken and enrich your sauce. If you choose to take this step, do not let your stew boil once the liver-crème fraiche mixture is in it or it will curdle. If you want to go halfway with this final step, mix in a large dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream in at the end.
- 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 heads of garlic
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms
- 4 Tbsp butter
- 1 rabbit
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- 1 cup sherry or white wine
- 1-2 cups mushroom soaking water
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
- 1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped into large pieces
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Soak the dried porcini in water: Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups hot water.
2 Cut rabbit into pieces and sprinkle with salt: Cut the rabbit into serving pieces and salt well. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Use all of the rabbit in this dish – you can fish out the ribs and other parts that have little or no meat on them later; they will add vital flavor to your stew.
3 Optional Step with rabbit liver: If you are going to make the crème fraiche-liver thickener, mince the rabbit liver finely and move it to a small bowl. Vigorously mix in about 1 1/2 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream. Now put the mixture into a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and push it through with a rubber spatula. Reserve in the fridge.
4 Roast garlic: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the top third off the heads of garlic and drizzle the olive oil over them. Wrap the heads loosely in foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until cloves are soft and brown. Set aside to cool.
5 Prep fresh mushrooms, dice rehydrated porcini, save mushroom soaking liquid: Chop off the tough ends of the mushroom stems and either discard or save for stock. Roughly chop or slice the mushrooms and set aside. Dice the rehydrated porcini. Pour the porcini soaking water though a paper towel into another bowl. Reserve the liquid.
6 Dry sauté fresh mushrooms: Heat a thick-bottomed large pot on high heat for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and shake the pot. Stirring continuously, dry sauté the mushrooms until they release their water.
Turn the heat down to medium-high. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any mushroom bits off the bottom of the pan. Salt the mushrooms lightly. When the mushroom liquid is mostly gone, remove them to a bowl.
7 Brown rabbit in butter: Add the butter to the pot. When the butter melts, turn the heat down to medium. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and place in the pan.
Work in batches if you need to, do not crowd the pan. Brown the pieces well on all sides. Remove the rabbit pieces from the pot and set aside.
8 Sauté shallots: Increase the the heat to medium-high and add the shallots to the pot. Sauté until the shallots are nicely wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir from time to time. Sprinkle salt over everything.
9 Squeeze roasted garlic into mushroom soaking liquid: While the shallots are cooking, squeeze the roasted garlic into the mushroom soaking water you have strained, then whisk it together.
10 Deglaze shallots with sherry: Add the sherry or white wine to the shallots in the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Let the sherry boil down by half. Add the mushroom-roasted garlic mixture and the stock and stir to combine.
11 Add thyme, mushrooms, rabbit, parsnips, bring to simmer and cook: Add the thyme, all the mushrooms, the rabbit and the parsnips and bring everything to a bare simmer.
Simmer gently for 90 minutes. You want the meat to be close to falling off the bone. If you want, you can fish out all the rabbit pieces and pull the meat off the bone – it makes the dish less attractive, but it will be easier to eat. Taste for salt right before you serve and add if needed. Stir in the parsley.
12 Add liver mixture if using: If you are using the crème fraiche-liver mixture to thicken your stew, turn off the heat. When the stew stops bubbling, add the mixture and let it heat through for a minute before serving.
Serve with a crusty loaf of bread, a green salad and either a hearty white wine, a dry rose or a light red wine.