Rabbit has all that flavor that chicken is missing. It tastes gamey in a very pleasant way. Served in a creamy sauce, it is irresistible. Rabbit fricassee, simply wonderful!
Rabbit used to be insanely popular across Germany. Many older people like my grandma even held their own rabbits which were then slaughtered for special-occasion meals like Easter. I know it sounds macabre to eat the Easter bunny, so maybe you don’t want to serve it on Easter Sunday if you have small kids. Chicken fricassee is just as delicious for non-rabbit eaters.
Rabbit is very easy to prepare and super inexpensive. If you’re friends with a hunter, you can even get a wild rabbit for free. Or, just buy a farmed one in the store as I did. Farm-raised rabbits taste less gamey and are more tender than the wild variety. However, some people say they lack taste. So, if you’re a big fan of game meat, maybe consider using a wild rabbit for this dish.
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How to cook rabbit
Rabbit is very lean meat. It has less fat than chicken and turkey so don’t expect it to be super juicy. The main way to prepare it is to braise the rabbit in parts until the meat is fork-tender and hasn’t dried out too much. The leg quarters take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to become tender. The back fillet is done much faster and also suitable as a ‘rabbit-steak’.
To make up for the lack of juiciness, rabbit must always be served with plenty of sauce. So, nearly every German or French recipe for rabbit you’re going to find out there is going to be some kind of fricassee. The rabbit is gently braised in a flavorful liquid until tender. The braising liquid then gets reduced and thickened to a sauce-like texture.
I’ve included instructions on how to cut up a whole rabbit in my recipe. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so you can ask your butcher to do the work for you. Rabbit is usually sold with the organs still inside. Make sure to not waste the liver, heart, and kidney. Especially the liver tastes glorious. The organs are a treat quickly pan-fried on a slice of bread.
What goes into my braising liquid for rabbit fricassee
I braise rabbit in white wine along with some soup vegetables. It’s simple and delicate. The only spices I use are juniper berries, allspice berries, black peppercorns, and bay leaf. Juniper berries can be found in almost any game dish in Germany. They have a fruity flavor that pairs exceptionally well with rabbit, venison, wild pig, and deer.
To get a really good fricassee sauce, stir some mustard into your soup vegetables before deglazing the pan with white wine. The mustard will give the sauce a slight tang without overwhelming other flavors.
The fricassee sauce gets thickened with crème fraîche and cornstarch. Whisk a small amount of broth into your crème fraîche before you add it to the sauce. That way it is easier to incorporate the crème fraîche and you won’t need to stir as vigorously.
As always when thickening with a cornstarch slurry, be very conservative with the amount you add. The rabbit fricassee sauce should be creamy and not gummy. It’s ok if it is on the thinner side. You’re going to serve a generous amount of it anyway because the rabbit needs plenty of sauce. That’s why I also recommend you to serve this dish in small soup bowls. The more sauce, the better the dish.
How to serve rabbit fricassee
Eating just rabbit meat and sauce is a bit boring. I add some sauteed button mushrooms and cooked potatoes to my fricassee. They both soak up the sauce beautifully and are quick and easy to prepare while your rabbit braises in the oven.
The final sprinkling of chives is optional, but it makes the dish look prettier because the overall color is pretty monotone yellow-brownish. The green color of the chives just pops into your eyes and makes the rabbit fricassee more vibrant. You can also substitute parsley or chervil if you have them on hand.
1/4 head of celeriac (celery root), roughly chopped
6-8 parsley sprigs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cups white wine
3 juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leafs
For seasoning the sauce:
1/2 pound (225 g) crème fraîche
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
salt, to taste
For the sides:
1.4 (635 g) pounds waxy potatoes
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons clarified butter
1/2 (225 g) pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced
salt, to taste
1/4 cup finely minced chives, for garnishing
Cut up and sear the rabbit:
Preheat your oven to 320 °F (160 °C).
Cutaway the leg quarters from the carcass and set them aside. With poultry scissors, cut through the spine to separate the back of the rabbit into two pieces.
Season the rabbit pieces to taste with salt and dust them generously with flour. Heat the lard in a Dutch oven over medium heat and sear the rabbit pieces in batches until lightly golden brown on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Set the rabbit pieces aside.
Prepare your braising liquid:
Lower the heat of your stove to medium-low and add the onions, leeks, carrots, celeriac, and parsley sprigs into your pot. Sweat the vegetables for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until slightly translucent. Add the Dijon mustard and mix briefly. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add in the juniper berries, allspice berries, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. Layer the rabbit pieces on top of the vegetables. Add enough water to just barely cover all the meat, about 4 cups. Bring the braising liquid to a light simmer, then cover the Dutch oven with a lid. Place in the preheated oven.
Braise the rabbit:
After 20 minutes of braising, remove the rabbit backs from the pot and set them aside. Return the Dutch oven back into your oven and braise for another 25 minutes. Then, remove the lid and let the rabbit pieces braise for another 15 minutes. Once done, take the Dutch oven out of the oven and set the rabbit leg quarters aside.
Once cool enough to handle, cut the rabbit meat into bite-size pieces. I like to cleave directly through the bone but if you prefer boneless meat, then you can pull the meat off the bone by using your hands.
Prepare the sauce:
Discard all the vegetables and spices and pass your braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour the braising liquid into a large pan and reduce over medium-high heat by about half. In a bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche and sugar. Take a ladle of your reduced braising liquid and whisk it into the crème fraîche until smooth. Add the crème fraîche mixture to the rest of the braising liquid. Take your cornstarch slurry and slowly whisk it into your lightly simmering sauce until thickened to your liking. Don’t over thicken it. The sauce should be creamy and not gummy. Season the finished sauce to taste with nutmeg and salt.
Prepare the sides:
It’s best to prepare the sides while the sauce is reducing.
Put the unpeeled potatoes inside a large pot and cover with cold water. Season the water liberally with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn down the heat and let the potatoes simmer, covered, over low heat for about 20 minutes or until tender. To check for doneness, pierce the potatoes with a sharp paring knife. If you feel no resistance and the knife slides easily off the potato, they are done. Drain the potatoes and peel them while still warm using a sharp paring knife. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Heat the clarified butter in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes or until tender to your liking. Season to taste with salt and set aside.
Serve the rabbit fricassee:
Add the rabbit meat, potatoes, and mushrooms into your sauce. Mix well and let all the ingredients heat through for 1-2 minutes. Ladle into individual serving bowls and sprinkle with chives.