This is probably going to horrify vegetarians and small children but we ate Bugs Bunny.
No seriously, rabbits are considered a pest here in New Zealand and farmers are all too happy for hunters to come and help keep their rabbit population under control. So off the boys went the other week for a spot of rabbit hunting and they brought home some rabbits for the larder.
Having never cooked or eaten rabbit before I moved down to Dunedin I was intrigued. What on earth would bunny would taste like?
We first tried it as a pot roast in the slow cooker loosely using a Jamie Oliver recipe but the meat ended up being really dry and the lemon was completely over-powering. However, you could still just make out the flavour of the meat and guess what it tasted like...
Yip you got it - it tasted just like chicken. Only gamier. I kid you not.
So not to be defeated by the first failed attempt, I thought to try a different approach: Rabbit au Vin or as we jokingly called it Bugs Bunny Stew.
I cooked it in the slow cooker again convinced that slow cooking was the only way to tenderise the rather tough meat and used a recipe based on coq au vin: a french chicken stew using red wine, onions and garlic.
We didn't have a heck of a lot of red wine in the house, nor did we have any bacon or mushrooms so I just made do with what was in the pantry, substituting in some beef stock and using loads of herbs and garlic. Popped everything in the slow cooker and went to Uni.
The smells coming out of the slow cooker when we came home were just incredible - garlicky, oniony, stocky and lovely herbiness. Just what you want to come home to on a cold wet Dunedin day.
The rabbit had to be rested for around 10 minutes (which did helped with tenderising the meat) but once again, quelle horreur, the meat was a little dry. It was definitely better than our first attempt which was rather chewy in texture as well as dry but far far off the falling-off-the-bone deliciousness we had imagined it would be.
The sauce itself would have benefited with the full amount of wine in the recipe (I only had 1 cup and substituted water for the rest) and mushrooms would have gone down a treat (particularly wild ones you can get out in the bush around here) but it was a thick and wholesome and comforting stew that made you feel like a hunter-gatherer living off the land.
So this Rabbit au Vin or Bugs Bunny Stew recipe is definitely a work in progress so if there are any avid rabbit fans out there I would really appreciate any advice you have! Have you ever cooked rabbit before? Do you have any tips of tricks for cooking game?
Rabbit au Vin
6 rabbit hind-quarters
2 medium onions, diced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
10 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
3 cups (750 ml) red wine
~2 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary chopped finely
3 tsp (around 3 sprigs) fresh thyme
5 sage leaves
1/2 - 1 tsp salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup water
1. Heat a little oil in a pan and brown the onions until golden, then take out of the pan and scoop into the slow cooker. Season the rabbit with some salt and pepper and brown in the same pan for around 1 -2 minutes per side. Remove the rabbit and place in the slow cooker. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scrap the bottom of the pan for all the yummy bitty bits and pour the lot into the slow cooker to cover the rabbit.
2. Cover the rabbit completely with beef stock. Add the carrots, 10 whole peeled cloves, herbs, salt and pepper. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook for 6 hours.
3. Take the rabbit out of the slow cooker, cover with foil and let it rest for 10-15 mins. In the meantime, pour the juices into a large pot and heat over medium heat. Add the worcestershire sauce. Mix the flour and water in a small bowl to make a slurry. Add the extra chopped garlic, and enough of the flour/water mixture to thicken the sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve over the rabbit with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach - good winter tucker.