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.
Rabbit vs. Chicken Cacciatore
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 easier 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.
What Is Cacciatore?
Cacciatore is a traditional Italian dish that's similar to a stew, but it's made with whole pieces of boned meat instead of deboned cubed meat. In Italian, cacciatore means "hunter." Usually made from chicken or rabbit — although animal protein works — a traditional cacciatore often includes onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, and herbs.
Where to Buy Rabbit Meat
If your grocery store meat department doesn't have rabbit meat, try a butcher's shop or a farmers market. There are also several sources of rabbit meat online, and you can have rabbit delivered to your doorstep, frozen, and cut into pieces.
How to Store and Reheat This Recipe
Like most stews, this dish tastes really good on day 2 or 3 so feel free to make it a day or two ahead of time. Store cooled rabbit cacciatore tightly covered in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Reheat it in a 325°F oven until it's heated through and the rabbit meat reaches 160°F.
Freeze cooled rabbit cacciatore in a freezer safe zipper bag or container for up to 3 months. Defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat it in a 325°F oven until it's heated through and the rabbit meat reaches 160°F.
More Rabbit Recipes
- Rabbit in Mustard Sauce
- Rabbit Stew with Mushrooms
- Rabbit Braised in Belgian Ale
- Braised Rabbit with Prunes
Whole rabbit is much more difficult to part out than a whole chicken. If you can, have your butcher cut it for you.
Recipe adapted from a chicken recipe by Georgeanne Brennan.
1 (2 1/4) pound rabbit, cut into 6 to 8 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Wondra flour works great)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chopped mushrooms
3 cups 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
Before you start, cut the rabbit into pieces, or have your butcher do it for you. Hank Shaw has an excellent guide here: How to Cut up a Rabbit.
Brown the rabbit pieces:
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 to 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.
Add the onions and then garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms, rosemary, thyme:
Reduce the 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 with tomatoes and bay leaf:
Reduce heat to medium low; cover the pan and cook for 35 minutes.
Add the olives:
Uncover the pan and add the olives. Leave the cover off.
Boil off excess liquid:
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.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 5|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 24g||31%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||31%|
|Total Carbohydrate 16g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 57mg||287%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|