A Bunny After Easter
I have what is arguably a perverse desire to serve rabbit on Easter. This year I missed by a week, but made up for it with a delicious rabbit in a spice cake sauce. Since slow-cooked bunny in spice cake sauce is brown to the max, instead of the finished dish you are seeing the bunny’s pedigree, metal tags showing which farm raised the rabbit for market.
While knowing where your food comes from is a movement in the U.S., it’s a deep cultural current in France. There are certainly enormous supermarkets here, and they’re packed with shoppers. But I also know people who almost never set foot in one, preferring instead to buy everything possible directly from the producer, or from a vendor who sells farm produce at one of the weekly markets.
I’m on the fence, myself. I love buying a bunny that’s traceable to a specific farm. However, the one guy I know that raises bunnies has such heartstoppingly gorgeous animals that it’s practically impossible to imagine eating them. And I do still have a fascination with French prepared foods, which are of a variety and quality that I find mind-boggling.
So, I’ll leave you to gather your rabbit where you may, but I will mention that a certain amount of frozen rabbit on the world market is coming from China, and I’d avoid that if I were able to identify it. Once you have a rabbit, you can make this delicious recipe.
You’ll also need pain d’épices, which is a sort of French gingerbread. There are many variations, but it’s closer to a German lebkuchen than to a regular American gingerbread. You want to find or make a cake that’s based on honey, not one heavy with molasses, and with a nice spice balance. There’s a basic recipe here – it’s in French so let me know if you need a translation.
This is a dish that’s best if made over a three day period. The more often you reheat and chill the finished dish, the better it will be.
Rabbit with Pain d’Epices Sauce
1 large rabbit, cut into pieces (giblets included but save the liver for another use)
6 large shallots, peeled and chopped
2 oz. butter
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 bottles Belgian blonde beer
1 clove garlic
4 slices pain d’épices
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon thyme
large pinch grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
Salt and pepper the rabbit pieces. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and brown the rabbit well. Place rabbit pieces in a large ovenproof dish, preferably a clay pot. Sauté the shallots and garlic in the rabbit drippings. When softened, sprinkle with the flour and stir for a minute or two. Gradually add the beer, stirring to achieve a smooth sauce. Crumble the pain d’épices into the sauce and stir to combine. Add the mustard, vinegar, thyme, and nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Adjust with additional vinegar or a little brown sugar if necessary – the sweetness will vary depending on your pain d’épices. You want a sauce that’s sweet but not cloying.
Preheat the oven to 375. Pour the sauce over the rabbit, cover the clay pot tightly, and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Allow the pot to cool, then place in fridge. You can serve this the next day by reheating for an hour in a slow oven, but to make it even better: on day 2 reheat the rabbit until the sauce is bubbling, then allow it to cool and return it to the fridge overnight. On day 3 reheat it once again and serve.