It’s cold where I live. Very cold. Very very cold. But beautiful, too. And here, where snow graces our mountain town nine and sometimes ten months of the year, you learn to make a lot of soups and stews – warming dishes that nourish the body, satisfy the tastebuds and sustain your will through the long, dark months. This rabbit recipe – stewed in Riesling with winter root vegetables and fresh herbs is one of them.
On Sunday it snowed, again. My husband, my love and my reason for learning to love this harsh and weary climate left early with a friend to ride the powder. My son and I, settled in – opening the blinds so that the soft winter light bathed our living room and we spent our Sunday quietly. I edited this week’s meal plan; he painted our toenails and the snow continued to fall. We’d crave something mild and nourishing before the day was out, and I pulled a rabbit from the freezer in preparation for this rabbit recipe.
Many of Nourished Kitchen’s readers have been after me for a while to post a rabbit recipe. Curiously, most who asked were Danish or French where obscure cuts and traditional meats beyond the beloved American trifecta of chicken, beef and pork are more readily enjoyed and, even better, celebrated. So the time came for that little freezer bunny and we stewed him in a good Slovenian Riesling with carrots, celeriac and turnips stored since the seasonal closing of our farmers market in October.
It’s unfortunate that rabbit is so underloved a meat in the US. Of course, Americans prefer their meat de-animalized, removed from its primal and living origins, set upon a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic. They become squeamish at the thought of eating rabbit or frog’s legs, and many positively refuse it. They feign nausea at the presentation of liver or roe or other offal. What a shame.
Rabbit’s a worthy food, though difficult to find and sometimes expensive, much like pasture-raised poultry. Also much like pasture-raised poultry, sustainability-minded food lovers might consider raising their own rabbits for food along with hens for eggs. Rabbit is lean and therefore does well in dishes enriched by butter and cream like this rabbit recipe. What little fat rabbit does contain offers a favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. It is also rich in the minerals phosphorus and selenium.
Browning the rabbit in frothy and fragrant grass-fed butter with minced shallots, I felt a deep sense of comfort. There’s joy to be had in the luxurious duty of feeding your family well, of nourishing their bodies with wholesome and nutrient-dense foods. More yet, there’s relief, too – relief in knowing that the food you tenderly prepare in your kitchen gives life, honoring nature and providing the sustenance your family needs for good health.
I finished the rabbit, tossing the browned pieces of rabbit in a clay baker with julienned root vegetables and whole baby carrots. It stewed in the oven, drowning in fragrant and fruity Riesling, for hours, then I turned the oven off, bundled up my son and we sledded through town. There’s a peculiar quiet in town after a good snow. The snow blankets the roads, the trees, the roofs and sidewalks – insulating the community in a soft white hush. And in this quiet, if you listen carefully, you might hear the gentle winter coo of the crows or the whooshing flutter of their wings as they glide from treetop to light post and back again. So, my son and I, warm in down coats but for ruddy and frozen cheeks, sledded through town, visiting the health food store, the heritage museum and counting the icicles that hung from roofs, wires and grills of cars.
When we finally made it home, the rabbit and winter vegetables was still warm and moist in the oven. I stirred in the peas, the fresh herbs and cream and returned it to the oven for another half hour. And when my husband came home, after a long day in the powder, dinner was ready. I’d serve rabbit with sourdough noodles if it weren’t for a sad renewal in my reactivity toward gluten; instead, we ate it on its own with fresh clementines for dessert.
Rabbit in Riesling
- 1/4 cup butter (preferably from grass-fed cows)
- 4 shallots (peeled and finely minced)
- 1 whole rabbit (2 – 3 lbs, 1 – 1 1/2 kg, skinned, cleaned and cut up)
- 1/2 lb small young carrots (scraped and trimmed of greens)
- 1/2 lb turnips (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
- 3/4 lb celeriac (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
- 2 cups white wine ( preferably Riesling)
- 1 cup fresh or frozen shelled English peas
- 1 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, thyme, chervil, mint etc.)
- 1/4 cup fresh raw cream or crème fraïche
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius).
- Melt the butter in a skillet over a moderate flame until it foams. Toss in the shallots, frying until they release their perfume and turn translucent. Brown the rabbit pieces in the butter and shallots, about two minutes on each side.
- Transfer the rabbit to a clay baker or Dutch oven, then toss carrots, turnips and celeriac into the skillet, frying until fragrant, about five or six minutes. Transfer vegetables to the clay baker or Dutch oven with browned rabbit pieces.
- Pour wine into the clay baker or Dutch oven, then cover and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degress Celsius) for two and a half hours.
- Remove the lid, stir in the peas. Replace the lid and continue cooking for an additional thirty minutes.
- After the rabbit is cooked through, remove it from the oven and stir in chopped herbs and fresh cream.