Braised Rabbit with Carrot Top Gremolata and Charred Carrots
Looking to make something on-theme and extremely on-the-nose for Easter dinner this year? Ive got the perfect recipe to expand your meat horizons and scar your children, with equal measure.
Rabbit. Served on a bed of carrots.
Consider it payback for the blue fescue bushes in my front yard, Peter Cottontail. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.
Truly though, there is nothing scary about preparing or eating rabbit. If you have any qualms about eating these furry, bush-and-garden-destroying friends, consider this: rabbit, which essentially tastes like chicken, is one of the most sustainable meats on the market. They grow quickly, thrive on alfalfa (rather than energy expensive feeds like soy) and reproduce well like rabbits. Modern Farmer has even dubbed rabbit as the Super Meat of the Future!
I can tell you right now, this super meat is thriving in herds on the carefully planted grasses in our landscaping. (Oh my gosh, I just learned a group of rabbits is called a FLUFFLE. This goes a small way toward endearing these little Easter monsters to me.)
The trickiest part about rabbit for dinner is really sourcing one Whole Foods does not generally carry them, though better butchers and meat markets around town should. I found mind at Tony’s Meat Market here in Denver, but I’d be willing to bet Marczyk’s or Central Market/HEB has them as well (the Whole Foods butcher mentioned they sell them sometimes at Asian grocers like H Mart, too). They are often frozen, as there is not as much demand for them here in the States as there is in Europe, so check for them in the frozen meat section or ask your butcher.
If you find one fresh, then bravo! I am yet to do so. Ask your butcher to prepare the rabbit into 6-8 pieces. If you are only able to find frozen, youll have to try your hand at some basic butchery I promise you are up to the task! If you can carve a chicken, youve got this. Also: if you can look up how to carve a chicken and/or rabbit on the internet, youve got this. Ready a sharpened knife and read over this tutorial at Food52 or this fancier tutorial at Saveur.
I loosely followed the Food52 version to create 6 nice pieces and a few leftover bits. Place the rabbit on its back and separate the legs essentially the same way you would the legs of a chicken, pulling to each side then cutting through the joint. For the forearms, spread to each side until you can tell where the joint is, then slice through the joint here as well (I did this slightly differently than Food52). You are left with the long, skinny body with two cylindrical loins attached to the backbone. Slice off the thin flaps of meat on either side of the loin and reserve.
To separate the loins, with small, gentle motions slice as close to the backbone as possible, pulling the loin gently away from the backbone with your other hand as you slice until the loin is separated -youll have a tiny, adorable cylinder of meat. Repeat on opposite side. Then, chop the backbone in half at the ribcage, so you have a ribcage section and a backbone section. Reserve so you can use the refuse parts in a savory Rabbit Ramen tomorrow!
Now the pieces are ready to receive a delicious marinade of creme fraiche, dijon and paprika.
If all that butchery doesn’t feel very Easter-y to you, dont worry. Were about to join bunny with carrots, as is natural and pleasing.
While this mellow, rich braise is made luxurious by the addition of tangy creme fraiche, the true star is actually the piquant, fresh bite of the carrot top gremolata. Don’t skip this, it totally makes the dish!!! The gremolata, a verdant, choppy puree of grassy carrot tops and parsley, acidic lemon, pungent garlic and briny capers, is the perfect counterpoint to the rounded, stewy flavors of the braise it wakes up each bite and really takes the dish to another level.
And since were being very nose-to-tail with this recipe, well use the rest of the carrots, too, I guess. The beautiful deep violet, sunset orange and pale cream of a bunch of rainbow carrots always makes me smile, and I try to use them whenever I can find them though, frankly, you probably won’t notice a drastic difference in flavor between these and the classic orange variety. But so pretty, guys! Whether you use multicolor or orange carrots, try to get a healthy bunch of around a pound with their tops still attached look for carrots that are not overly-thick (as these can be more woody) and that have lush, emerald tops.
Slightly charring the carrots in a cast-iron skillet (or lined baking sheet) gives a bitter complexity to the typically sweet root these aren’t your classic copper coins! A vaguely agridolce sweet/sour glaze of honey, oil and white wine vinegar encourages browning, but it helps to finish of your high heat roast with a few minutes under the broiler. This is one time you get a pass to burn the veggies a little! Though you could roughly dice the carrots after cooking, I sort of enjoy spearing them whole and nibbling them like a rabbit throughout the meal.
No, really not just to rub in the double irony of eating rabbit on Easter as though I myself was a rabbit. Maybe a little.
Nestle your browned pieces of rabbit onto a bed of carrots and egg noodles or multicolor farfalle, drizzling with a generous spoonful of thickened creme fraiche braising liquid then top with a thimble of carrot top gremolata. Try to get a bit of each element in every bite of this festive holiday dish (that is good any time of the year).