Braised rabbit in tomato & white wine sauce with sun dried tomatoes & green olives
Recipe by Karen Gros.
Rabbit has had a place on the kitchen table in Italy, France, and Spain for more than a millennium, thanks in large part to Pope Gregory I condoning the consuming of rabbit during lent, proclaiming that rabbit meat was not meat. Rabbit meat is both nutritious and versatile. Many liken it to chicken breast, though it does have a more dynamic taste. Higher in protein than meat (and more easily digestible than other proteins), rabbit is high in B vitamins, particularly B12, has virtually a third of the calories of beef, and half the calories of pork. Avoid overcooking, as it will dry out. This classic is delicious served with a vegetable side and polenta or rice.
Pel-Freez, located in Rogers, AR, is the largest producer of domestic rabbit in the United States. They are the only USDA-approved, Grade A supplier for rabbit meat. Their rabbits are farm bred and raised to yield young rabbits with mild and succulent white meat.
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole (2 ½ to 3 pound) rabbit, cut into 6 pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced in half rounds
2 carrots, sliced in thin rounds
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
3 dried bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
10 sun dried tomatoes, reconstituted in hot water
1 ¾ cups whole, peeled plum tomatoes with juice
½ cup Spanish green olives, whole, pitted
- Salt and pepper both sides of each piece of rabbit. Melt half the butter in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Add half the olive oil, and lightly brown the rabbit on all sides, working in batches as necessary to prevent steaming. Remove rabbit to a plate.
- Add remaining butter and olive oil to the pan. Sauté the onion several minutes until transluscent, add the carrots, cook another minute or so, add the garlic, cook another 2 to 3 mintues. Do not allow onions or garlic to brown. Add the herbs and cook for another minute, and then add the wine and tomatoes with juice. Stir in half the olives, along with the reconstituted sun dried tomatoes; and nestle the rabbit in one layer on the bottom of the pan. Simmer on low, covered, for 20 minutes. Turn rabbit, and simmer another 20 minutes, covered.
- Remove rabbit to a heat-proof bowl and cover with foil. Reduce the sauce, at least by half, until thickened (this could take 15 minutes or so). Add remaining olives, and more fresh rosemary, if desired. Add the rabbit back to the sauce, simmer on low to warm through, and toss to coat well.
- Serve with seasonal vegetables and a side of polenta or rice.
It’s no secret. Rabbit production is more environmentally friendly compared to more mainstream proteins such as poultry, beef and pork. But if you still have any doubts, simply ask yourself one question – which would you prefer to live near? As anyone who has ever lived close to a chicken house or stockyard will tell you, you do notice.
On the other hand, if you lived close to a small rabbit farm you’d probably never notice unless you saw it with your own eyes. There’s a reason we call rabbit the clean, lean protein. It simply makes the smallest carbon footprint compared to all other forms of meat production.
Just look at the amount of land needed to raise a rabbit in a healthy, humane habitat. It takes a fraction of the amount of space compared to other animals. (See Graphic)
In addition to taking less space, there is very little impact made on the land used.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it takes four pounds of feed to raise one pound of rabbit meat. By comparison, it takes seven pounds of feed or more to create only one pound of beef.
Less feed means less … let’s call it byproduct. So, in addition to having little to no effect on your surroundings, you can rest assured your rabbit farm neighbors will put off the right airs.
When you think of the world’s most well-known rabbit dishes – hasenpfeffer, rabbit confit or the many delectable variations of braised rabbit – you quickly realize rabbit has been a favorite primary ingredient for chefs around the world for a very long time. From classic Southern American and the current farm-to-table trend to traditional French and Creole, this lean, tender protein is versatile enough to fit with every style, taste and flavor, and the possibilities are seemingly endless.
However, if a recent event held by the American Culinary Federation is an indication, there are still plenty of culinary creations with rabbit yet to be discovered. In April, Arkansas-based rabbit producer, Pel-Freez, collaborated with accomplished culinary educator Chef Ted Kowalski at a tasting in St. Augustine, Florida, held by the American Culinary Federation (ACF). In addition to being a Certified Executive Chef and a member of the American Academy of Chefs, Chef Kowalski is the chapter president of St. Augustine’s ACF.
His creations are nothing short of amazing, featuring new takes on traditional favorites and adding his own spin to develop dishes that are both unique and familiar. He was also impressed with Pel-Freez products, particularly compared to the practices he was used to earlier in his career.
“Pel-Freez rabbits are super clean, chef ready and a far cry from my days at Le Pavillon when we had live rabbits in cages outside the kitchen door,” said Chef Kowalski.
Among the dishes developed were delicious takes on rabbit fricassee and rabbit terrine. And while these recipes may be above the skill level of many of us (the exception being if Chef Kowalski, himself, is reading this), the photos of these meals should truly inspire the foodie in all of us. Whether they inspire you to get cooking or get eating is entirely up to you. Either way, thanks to Chef Ted Kowalski for creating dishes to develop sophisticated palates and encouraging fine dining with this clean, lean and often underutilized (at least for now) protein.
If you’re a meat eater – and most Americans are – you’re probably constantly on the lookout for meat choices that are high in protein and low in calories. The search should be a short one – rabbit.
This lean, tender white meat has less fat, fewer calories and lower cholesterol content than chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb and even a few fish.
Americans should be enjoying this tender and delicate, white meat choice regularly. Many “across the pond” have continued to appreciate it for its culinary and nutritional value when interest in the States appeared to wane. According to an article written by award-winning author and writer, Kris Wetherbee, American foodies are rediscovering their love for rabbit meat after a decades-long hiatus:
Actually, rabbit only recently fell out of favor during the 20th century baby
boomer era of the early 60s to the late 80s. With the exception of that short
stint in time, its popularity has spanned the generations, with its use as a meat
source dating as far back as 1500 BC.
With interest in healthier meats at an all-time high, maybe it’s time for Americans to get reacquainted to this readily available, delicious and nutritious meat staple.