When my daughter was old enough to start eating solids and most ingredients I stopped cooking separate meals for her and we started eating together as a family.
One day I made roast rabbit and cut the meat for her into small pieces for her to eat.
When she was about to put the first bite into her mouth, she asked me what it was.
My husband and I looked at each other and for a split second wondered what we should answer. We were all too aware that she loved her bunny-shaped stuffed animals and her boardbook versions of Peter Rabbit and Guess How Much I Love You. But we decided to be true to our beliefs, to not lie to our children about food and where it comes from. So after the first second of hesitation, I answered in English:
She stopped short and put her fork down.
I knew it.
Then she pointed to the silver baby fork she was eating with and said "Babbit". Surely enough, on the fork were a duck, a rabbit and a pig.
I should've said chicken. I should've waited a little longer.
Then she picked up her fork again, stuck it in her mouth, chewed and exclaimed:
|Before going into the oven|
I may have already told you this story, but I can’t help thinking of it now that I am posting a recipe for rabbit, probably because I am aware that it is a controversial topic. I know some readers will click onto the next blog in disgust/horror.
In a lot of countries rabbits are eschewed as a protein source because they are cute, barnyard friends. The truth, however, is that we eat most of our barnyard friends, from cows to hens to ducks, so why make an exception for rabbits? In my opinion, you either eat meat or you don’t. I am not judging the moral issue or personal taste. But if you are a meat eater, a chicken is as much an animal as a rabbit or a lamb, isn’t it? So, just because it ain’t as cute as Bugs Bunny, it is ok to go ahead and kill it?
|After the oven|
Also, if you eat meat, it is important that you understand where it comes from and how it ends up on your plate. Sterilizing the process by selling meat in aseptic cuts and unnatural shapes in plastic trays, or choosing to eat some animals and not others based on their appearance is just another way to distance yourself from your food source, making you less responsible of your actions. Let's face it, if you recognize the actual shape of a leg, if a fish is served whole instead of filleted, if you are eating an organ, you are more aware of the sacrifice that was made to feed you. So ultimately, eating responsibly and knowing what you are ingesting also tends to discourage waste. Maybe you will think twice about dumping that leftover piece in the trash if you are actually aware an animal was killed for your consumption. An animal (a cow, a pig, a hen, a lamb, a rabbit, a fish, even a horse!), not a pink unidentified rectangle of substance.
But back to rabbit. In Italy (and many other places of course), rabbit meat is quite common. They sell it at the butcher's and pretty much in any supermarket, usually near the poultry section. You can buy a whole rabbit, head on or off, or you can buy it quartered. Rabbit meat is a lean and healthy option for your diet. According to an interesting article I just read, rabbit has a low carbon footprint because they efficiently turn calories into pounds of meat (with the same amount of food and water they produce 6 lbs of meat vs. the 1 lbs produced by a cow). They are quiet and clean (much more so than chickens), and they eat leftover scraps and turn them into natural fertilizer, making them ideal as backyard animals for urban locavores.
They are also apparently much easier to butcher and clean than a chicken. Now I may just stick to buying mine at the supermarket and the truth is we cook rabbit because it tastes good but in today’s world of overconsumption I am always happy to learn about and consider all the other options out there for us.
I like braising rabbit because the meat, which is not at all fatty and therefore tends to be a little on the dry side, becomes pull-apart tender with this cooking method. You can use many different liquids, from wine to beer to marinades or tomato sauce, but this time I simply used vegetable stock. When the meat is ready you can serve it as a main course or make a delicious rabbit ragù by pulling it apart.
2 celery stems
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
1 or 2 sprigs rosemary
1 or 2 bay leaves
2 cups (about 200ml) vegetable stock
Salt, pepper and flour to season
Season the rabbit pieces with salt, pepper and flour. Heat some olive oil in a heavy based, oven proof pot with a lid. When it is very hot, sear the seasoned rabbit meat until golden brown on all sides. Set aside.
Clean and finely chop the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and sauté in the olive oil until tender. Put the rabbit back in, pour in the stock and add the rosemary and bay leafs. Bring to a small boil and cover.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200°C. When the stock is boiling, transfer the pot to the oven and let cook for about two hours.
When the meat is ready, take out the rabbit, and cook down the liquid. I mashed the vegetables with a fork but you could blend them with a hand mixer or keep them whole. You can also add some butter and a little flour to thicken it into a gravy.
Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes, rice, couscous.