braised rabbit with olives

Rabbit tastes like chicken. But it is not chicken. In the Introduction I said this was a book of recipes, not of technique. But because a rabbit has very little fat, its meat can very easily become tough or dry when cooked. The solution to this problem is to braise it.

Braising rabbit is more elaborate than braising beef or lamb or even chicken, for you must make certain that it never boils. It should, instead, cook on a very low, constant simmer until it is truly fork tender. Fork tender means that cooking only extends to the point that a fork easily pierces the meat and then slides right back out of it. If the meat is falling off the bone, you have gone too far. When it is done, remove the meat from the cooking liquor to prevent further cooking.

The recipe below is based on one by the same name in Bon Appétit magazine in May, 2002.

  • 2½ lb rabbit, cut in 8 pieces
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 large jalapeños, seeds removed
  • 4 oz canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup brine cured Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/3 cup drained capers
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup (or more) water
  • <salt> and pepper to taste
  • fresh parsley garnish

Wash the rabbit and pat dry. Rub the ground pepper over and into the rabbit. Heat 4 tbsp of the oil in a large heavy pot to medium high. In batches, add the rabbit to the pot and brown, turning often, about 4 minutes per side. Remove rabbit to a bowl lined with paper towels and reserve. Remove excess oil from the pot.

Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining oil to the pot, sauté the onions about 5 minutes, add peppers, tomatoes, olives, celery, capers, garlic, and thyme, and cook another 5 minutes. Mix in the vinegar and water, add the rabbit pieces, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon vegetables over the rabbit pieces, and continue to simmer lightly until the rabbit is just tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water in ¼ cupfuls if mixture becomes dry. Administer the fork test to determine the actual cooking time.

Correct the seasonings. Spoon the vegetables into a large serving dish, top with rabbit pieces, garnish with parsley, and serve while still warm.