Wednesday nights are reserved as date night for Cheryl and me. Most of the time we go out for dinner but occasionally she lets me cook a ‘fancy’ mid-week one for her. The whole point is to spend some quiet time together while trying something new. I’m pretty sure the idea for rabbit came up while we were in a butcher shop (What’s that? Rabbit. Can you cook it? Sure). So, when I was in my favorite butcher shop last week I picked one up. While I was pretty confident I could successfully cook rabbit I still needed to figure out how to present it, and present it well enough for date night.
My first stop was Julia Child. I figured she’d definitely have a rabbit recipe in her cookbook and was rather surprised I could only find a pate. Not quite a dinner recipe for date night. No matter, there are a few other resources on the bookshelf. I thumbed through D’Artagnan Glorious Game Cookbook (the other half of the two cookbooks my mom sent a few months ago), The Hunter’s Game Cookbook – a great source on game recipes, Molto Mario’s, and Tony Bourdain’s. The last three cookbooks all had recipes for braising and marinades which all looked great but they made me wonder about my choice of Lapin à la Moutarde based on one of the D’Artagnan recipes. Rabbit doesn’t have much fat so were they telling me it’s best cooked in a wet environment? Hmm. I was going to have to be careful and really mind my technique on this.
One thing which gave me confidence was the minimal amount of prep work required. Sometimes recipes can have a lot steps but this particular one does not. Prepping and cooking the whole dish took about an hour, maybe a little longer if you count having to break down the rabbit. Much shorter if you just buy some rabbit legs, they’re the meatiest part anyway. Regardless of what you buy, lapin à la moutarde can definitely be made for a weeknight dinner. Brown the rabbit pieces, pop it in the oven, and make the sauce while it’s roasting. I suppose it’s because of the lack of fat the French came up with such a good sauce for it, you know, just in case you drink too much wine forget about the rabbit and overcook it.
How’d it turn out? Succulent. The rabbit did not dry out like I feared, was tender, and the sauce goes great with it. Based on the result (an empty plate with just a bone remaining), I have a feeling Cheryl may be requesting more home-cooked date night dinners as winter approaches!
Rabbit in Mustard Sauce (a.k.a Lapin a la Moutarde) (it says serves 4 but it’s perfect for 2) adapted from D’Artagnan’s Glorious Game Cookbook
- 1 rabbit, 2 ½-3lbs, broken down into 6-8 pieces
- Flour for dredging, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 4 Tbs unsalted butter
- 2-3 shallots, minced
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
- ¾ C Dijon mustard
- ¾ C heavy cream
- 2 Tbs demi glace (optional)
- 1 Tbs chopped tarragon
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Melt 2 Tbs butter in a heavy bottomed pan or skillet over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Dredge the rabbit pieces in the flour and brush with some mustard.
Brown the rabbit, cooking each piece for 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside in a baking dish. When all of the legs are browned cover the dish with foil and place in oven. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the legs are tender. Check it at 30 minutes, stick a fork into the meat to see if it is tender enough. If not, do 5 minutes more.
While the rabbit is in the oven, prepare the sauce. [Side Roam: The sauce takes about 20 minutes to make so you don’t need to start it right when the rabbit goes in the oven. Have a glass of wine.]
Over medium-high heat, deglaze the pan with a little wine (or stock, or water). Melt the remaining 2 Tbs of butter. Add the shallots to the pan and cook until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have released their water, the water has evaporated, and they’ve cooked down. About 10 minutes.
When the mushrooms have cooked down stir in the demiglace (if using it). Then add ½ of the cream and whisk in the mustard.
When cream sauce thickens, reduce the heat to simmer. Taste for seasoning, adjust with more mustard or cream if you like.
When rabbit is ready stir in any juices then put rabbit pieces into the sauce. Turn to coat. Serve!