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.
Rabbit Braised in Belgian Ale
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.
- 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
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour for dredging
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons 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 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Sprinkle rabbit pieces with salt:
Place rabbit pieces on a platter, sprinkle both sides with kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
Dredge rabbit with flour, brown in butter:
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.
Brown the onions, add garlic and thyme:
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.
Add ale, then stock, salt, pepper:
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.
Add celery root, rabbit, then simmer:
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.
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.
Return meat to sauce in pot:
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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