A couple weeks ago I declared we were going to start eating more French meals using French proteins. I started with duck confit and yesterday, I made a pasta dish with rabbit in mustard sauce. It was delicious, and easier to cook than I had imagined.
Now, some of you might be thinking – rabbit? I dunno about eating rabbit. Trust me when I say it tastes a lot like dark meat chicken and if it’s braised/roasted just right it’ll be fall off the bone fantastic. I want to say I became a rabbit fan a few years ago, maybe after I decided I like the game-y meats (duck, goat, rabbit, etc.) and began ordering any dish on a menu with rabbit in the description. And, my friends, I have never been disappointed. If you’re in San Francisco and looking for a great rabbit dish, there is a (seasonal?) rabbit pasta dish at Zazie that I 100 percent recommend as well as a sometimes rabbit curry at Nopa (also super yummy). And, of course, if you’re headed to France (or Belgium), I also highly recommend giving rabbit a try while visiting. It’s incredibly popular, and I think you’ll be surprised just how much you enjoy it.
So my trip started with the actual purchase of the rabbit yesterday morning at Marché Victor Hugo. Normally all of my usual poultry spots have lots of rabbits – full rabbits, hind quarters, innards, etc. But, yesterday, the pickins were slim. I had to do two loops before I found exactly what I wanted – the hind quarters or cuisse de lapin. While I’m pretty adventurous, I’ve often heard (and experienced) that the front half of the rabbit comes with a LOT of bones, which can be tricky when eating (if you’re in Philly – I recommend NOT ordering the rabbit at Han Dynasty…and Han recommends you don’t order it, too). And, Jim and I couldn’t eat an entire rabbit by ourselves, so I opted just for two cuisse (or two back legs). For reference, this was the perfect amount of food for the two of us.
As I placed my order, I transformatively felt very French. The man handling my request double checked that I did (in fact) want rabbit, and I felt like I got a little bit of a surprised approval, like I’m an adventurous American eater. Which, if you know me, essentially makes me feel like a rockstar for at least a week.
Now came for some menu planning. I was basing our first rabbit meal off of the Zazie dish I mentioned above. I remember it had mustard and a pappardelle pasta. I wanted to recreate it to the best of my memory/ability. Unfortunately, after looking around on the internet, I never did find the Zazie recipe (I guess I should’ve written in/asked the BA Foodist how they made it years ago). But I did find this recipe on Simply Recipes. I modified it, though, by adding the pasta to the sauce as well as peas. The only thing I think I might change is the ratio of mustard to everything else (French mustard is pretty potent, probably more potent than American grain mustard) as well as substitute creme fraîche for the cream. Essentially, I think next time I’m going to meld the American recipe with this French one.
**Update – I made this a second time and DID meld the two recipes together and left out the peas. It was a success – and I’d recommend making these adjustments to the American recipe above:
1 cup dry white wine (instead of 1/2 cup)
3/4 cup water plus a bullion cube (instead of 1/2 cup of water)
1/2 cup mustard (1/4 cup creamy Dijon, 1/4 cup with lots of mustard seeds)
1-2 teaspoons bouquet garni (instead of 1 teaspoon thyme)**
Anyway, the cooking process probably took over an hour, but it smelled AMAZING. The house still smelled amazing after we went to sleep. This is so savory and yummy, I highly recommend making any sort of pasta dish with a mustard sauce.
I am happy to report, rabbit will now probably be a main protein while we’re living here. I might try to make a couple of different rabbit stews before the cold weather leaves us for good.
If you’re thinking about cooking some rabbit, I wholly recommend you do. It’ll be tender & delicious. I know I’m pretty excited about the next time we’ll be eating it!