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Monday, June 24, 2024 at 4:49 PM

What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen - Braised Rabbit with Fennel

What’s Cooking in Kelli’s Kitchen - Braised Rabbit with Fennel
Kelli and Shelbe. Courtesy of Kelli Kelly.

“The three most important people in a man’s life are his barber, his butcher, and his lover.” Ron Swanson - Parks & Recreation

I am so thrilled that I am starting 2024 with a friend who is not only a butcher but also owns a butcher shop, Momma’s Meats. Shelbe Seay and I go back years, as evidenced by this vintage photo of us taken with a side of beef circa sometime in the aughts. Now that Shelbe has her own shop, I have an avenue to request whatever wacky cut of meat I can imagine. This last week, my request was for rabbit. I had a delicious dish at Sparrow & Wolf in Las Vegas in December–Braised Rabbit with Vanilla Parsnip Agnolotti. The rabbit was shredded, topped with crispy capers, and served in a rich demi-glace alongside delicate pasta pockets filled with a sweet-savory parsnip puree scented lightly with vanilla.

Rabbit is an exceptionally nutrient-dense protein that bridges poultry and larger animals. The “money cuts” on a rabbit are the saddle and the hindquarters, though the front legs and thighs also provide a reasonable amount of meat. Rabbit production in the US favors small-scale family farms and is super-sustainable considering the small footprint that rabbits have on their environment. But most importantly, rabbit is delicious.

The case of rabbit that Shelbe bought at my request sold out almost immediately, ensuring regular availability moving forward. I will understand if you want to set down the paper and run over to pick one up right now. Don’t worry, I will wait for you…

Butchering a rabbit is as simple as cutting up a chicken. Rabbits have three main meaty parts: the hindquarters, the forequarters, and the saddle. The saddle of the rabbit is its tenderloin–this is the white meat, while the fore and hindquarters are dark meat reminiscent of chicken legs and thighs. For step-by-step directions on how to cut up a rabbit, check out this handy website: https://www.seriouseats.com/how-to-cut-up-rabbit-5203166.
Here’s what I made with my rabbit:

Braised Rabbit with Mustard and Fennel By Jenn Louis via Food & Wine

INGREDIENTS:
½ cup Dijon mustard
2 T yellow mustard seeds
One 3-pound rabbit—cut into 2 whole legs, 2 front quarters, and 1 whole loin all on the bone
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 T canola oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
4 sage leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
2 cups rabbit or chicken stock or low-sodium broth (I simmered the rabbit bones in chicken stock to make a fakey-fake rabbit stock)
Soft polenta for serving

  1. DIRECTIONS:
    In a bowl, combine the Dijon mustard and mustard seeds. Season the rabbit parts with salt and pepper. Spread the mustard all over the rabbit pieces. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Add the rabbit pieces and cook over moderate heat until richly browned, about 2 minutes per side; turn the pieces carefully to keep as much mustard crust on the rabbit as possible. Transfer the rabbit to a plate.
  3. Add the onion, fennel, thyme, rosemary, and sage to the skillet. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Nestle the rabbit pieces in the vegetables.
  4. Cover the skillet and braise the rabbit in the upper third of the oven for about 50 minutes until the meat is tender. Uncover and braise for 10 minutes longer until the rabbit pieces are glazed.
  5. Transfer the rabbit to a plate, let cool until easily handled, remove bones and lightly shred the meat. Discard the herbs. Boil the sauce over high heat until the liquid is reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and return the rabbit pieces to the sauce to heat through. Serve in shallow bowls over polenta.

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