Thursday, June 18, 2009

Whisk Wednesdays—Civet de Lapin à la Française (Rabbit Stew with Red Wine)

Civet de Lapin à la Française (Rabbit Stew with Red Wine)
"The first step in making rabbit stew is catching the rabbit."
— Isaac Asimov
I tasted rabbit for the first time on a restaurant patio in Greece not far from Olympia. It was memorable not only because of the surroundings but also because it was ... a rabbit. I was a little squeamish about making it myself and wouldn't have wanted to break down my lapin from scratch, so I pretended it was chicken and moved past the whole idea of cooking and eating someone's pet.

"Real cooks have hard hearts."
— Marjorie Leet Ford
Sometime last year, I read Thomas Keller's account of "The Importance of Rabbits" in The French Laundry Cookbook. Keller asked his rabbit supplier to show him how to prepare a rabbit, and his first solo attempt at killing, skinning and eviscerating a rabbit was horrific. "It was a simple lesson," he says after the event, which taught him the importance of each animal's life. From then on, he would not waste any part of the animal.

"I knew that to waste anything was about as close to sin as a chef gets."
— Thomas Keller, The French Laundry Cookbook
How to Have Hare in Your Stew
After cutting the rabbit up into pieces, it is marinated overnight in red wine and aromatics. Following this marinating stage, the rabbit is removed (at which time you marvel at its purple complexion), dried and browned in butter. Next, the vegetables from the marinade are strained out, added to the sauté pan and sprinkled with flour. This mixture is cooked for a bit before adding the rest of the marinade ingredients. All is brought to a boil and simmered for 2 minutes before putting in a hot 425°F oven for about 45 minutes.

While the rabbit is stewing in the oven, get out all the pots and pans you own! One is for boiling the potatoes until tender. Another is for glazing the pearl onions (or shallots in my case). Finally, a third pan is for crisping the bacon before sautéing the mushrooms. These accessories to the rabbit are delicious on their own. I ended up using cinnamon cap mushrooms that I had purchased at the Ottawa Farmers' Market on the weekend.

After the rabbit is cooked, remove the pieces and set aside while preparing the sauce. Strain the liquid, bring it to a boil and reduce it for a few minutes. Add the rabbit along with the onions, bacon and mushrooms and simmer to marry the flavors for about 5 minutes. Interestingly, the sauce is sometimes thickened with the animal's blood! Since I didn't have any leftover blood in my refrigerator (unlike Ms. Glaze at culinary school) I just let it simmer to reduce and thicken without any coagulating agents.

While the sauce simmers, I toasted the buttered bread for croutons. Finally, it is served with a garnish of the ever common parsley.


Serves 6

Civet de Lapin à la Française (Rabbit Stew with Red Wine) mise en place
3¾-pound rabbit

For the Marinade:
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 whole cloves
20 peppercorns
Bouquet Garni
4 cups dry red wine
3 tablespoons cognac
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

For the Stew:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds waxy potatoes (red or white)
36 pearl onions
1 tablespoon sugar
5 ounces slab bacon, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ pound button or large, quartered mushrooms, trimmed, rinsed and dried

For the Croutons:
3 slices firm white bread, crusts removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

You can find the recipe for Civet de Lapin à la Française (Rabbit Stew with Red Wine) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home or here. To see how the rest of the Whisk Wednesdays group fared with their recipe, click here (or check out the sidebar) and then click on each blogger!

Serve with a rich red wine either from Burgundy or the Côtes du Rhône.

Tasting Notes
It has been several years since I tasted rabbit, and I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. It was moist and tender, definitely not gamey. It doesn't taste like chicken or pork. It has the meatiness of something in the middle, although the meat on the bone was a portion size fit for a petite person watching her girlish figure. Plus it's lean. In fact, it's leaner than beef, pork, or chicken. The rich, savory, slightly salty sauce and the mushroom-onion-bacon medley were the stars on the plate. And if you don't want to pull a rabbit out of your pot, use chicken.

• Look and Taste: How To Skin A Rabbit (Warning: This video may be difficult for some viewers to watch.)
• On a Lighter Note: Rabbit Stew Cartoons
Photo of Civet de Lapin à la Française (Rabbit Stew with Red Wine) from Dave, a Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Student who blogs

Next Class
• Soufflé au Comté (Cheese Soufflé) pages 82-83

. . . . . . . . . .

Running total: $1,384.52 + $18.15 (rabbit) + $22.98 (other ingredients) = $1,425.65
($6.85 per serving)

Butter used so far: 12 pounds, 20.5 tablespoons

. . . . . . . . . .
::Whisk Wednesdays::
We're cooking our way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, we try to find a suitable substitution. Find out more here.
If you like this post, share it!

If you like this blog, you can subscribe and get updates automatically.
  • Click here to learn about subscribing.
  • Click here to subscribe.


    Lynda said...

    You are brave to cook rabbit! The way you describe it makes it sound so tasty. Great pictures too.

    angela@spinachtiger said...

    I like rabbit, just not sure where to buy it. I had it for first time last year in an Italian restaurant and I went back again the next week to have it again.

    Good for you for making it. All those pots makes you really appreciate the great chefs of France and those who clean up after them. :)

    Nancy/n.o.e said...

    I love this post, Shari - from the quotes to the information to the notes, just great. The first time I ate rabbit it was in a stew and just delicious. This brings me back about 25 years!!

    Kayte said...

    I grew up eating rabbit my whole life, it was part of the farm background that I grew up with. It tastes good, fried rabbit does taste like fried chicken, and you are right about the protein/fat being the best around. Now, however, I just can't cook it. If I was served rabbit, I could eat it...something about taking it from the raw stage and cooking it, like veal, same deal. Your finished dish looks wonderful. I had to skip the raw pictures this time and quickly scroll down. Just is. Might try it with chicken when weather is cooler in the fall, however, as the ingredients sound really nice and the guys are willing to eat stews in fall and winter. Nice post.

    CaptainCrunch said...

    "Marvel at the purple complexion!" LOL! Your posts are a blast to read and mouth watering to look at. Who knew a Wascal Wabbit stew would be so good?

    Sippity Sup said...

    Lapin (bunny) is delicious. I suppose many are squeamish about it. But not me. I sent off my care package yesterday. Expect it in 5-7 days. No bunny in there though.

    Unknown said...

    Great post Shari - so informative! I have never had rabbit and don't see myself trying it anytime soon but the stew looks awesome and I'll probably try it substituting chicken :)

    Tales of Whimsy said...

    I tried it once as a girl but haven't tried it as an adult. Maybe I should!

    Aimée said...

    We raised rabbits for meat when I was growing up, so a stew like this would be the ultimate comfort food. Thanks for giving us such good directions, I would love to serve this up for my family.
    Great job!

    Deeba PAB said...

    My first exposute to rabbit on the menu was in the early 1990 when we were vacationing in Moscow & a friend there ordered it! Needless to say I almost passed out & didn't dare look at it. The story continues & I always think 'poor bunny'. You are brave to cook it. Rabbit isn't an edible menu item in India; I think that's where my reaction stems from. havning said that, your post was great & I read it with great interest!

    Manggy said...

    I'm glad you liked it! Still on my list though :) (and... I might like mine chopped up into parts already...) Parsley! It's exactly like how Elmer Fudd envisioned it, haha :)

    nora@ffr said...

    wow!! i never had rabbit this way shari.. but while i was in high school i remember having it some other way from my aunts place. love the unique presentation of the recipes as always and the beautiful pics too. m sure gonna try rabbit stew as soon i get in hand with a rabbit :)

    Monica H said...

    This is just so sad to me...I have a 3 pound rabbit.

    I'll pretend it's chicken though, because it looks quite tasty!

    lisaiscooking said...

    I've never cooked rabbit, but I like the taste of it. I was once in Vegas, of all places, for Easter weekend. The night before Easter, we had dinner at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, and I ordered the rabbit. So wrong, but so delicious. Your sauce looks amazing!

    katie said...

    wow. thanks for the post. I was about to buy a rabbit from the market the other day, but was wondering what I was going to do with it and how it tasted. I'm impressed and so intrigued... pulling a rabbit out of a pot.. hmm

    Jeff said...

    I love rabbit. Been trying to catch the little bugger in my backyard but I probably could not slaughter him instead relocate him to the country.

    pigpigscorner said...

    Wonderful shot of the dish! I like to eat rabbit meat but have never cooked it myself.

    Lo said...

    Love the succulence of rabbit, and it looks as if this stew does it perfect justice. We can occasionally find locally raised rabbit at the farmer's market in the late summer/fall -- and I always look forward to a bit of stew or ragu.

    Anonymous said...

    Wow. I wouldn't even know where to buy rabbit. Great pictures!

    Tiffany said...

    Sounds like a fantastic recipe even if it does require you to use all the pots in the kitchen! lol

    I can remember eating lots of rabbit growing up and know it's making an appearance in lots of places here in Europe. Supermarkets in Holland even sell the meat pre-packaged just like ground beef or chicken breasts. Raising rabbits yourself for the meat is rough come slaughter time, but for those who want to know exactly what they're eating, it's worth it. You eventually get over the grossness of it and just imagine yourself cleaning fish or something similar. Butchering isn't the world's greatest job but it keeps food on the table! ;o)

    nick said...

    Looks like you got your hands on a beautiful piece of rabbit there. I am always hesitant to buy it here because the choices are A)shops in Chinatown or B)special order from the butcher with a hefty $$ tag.

    Anonymous said...

    Bravo to you Shari!! This really looks wonderful! I'll rewind to this one of these days...for two reasons: I need to challenge my familiarities and because you and Dave make it look and sound wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing!