Rabbit or lapin seems to be as commonplace as beef, chicken or lamb in French cuisine. It is commonly available in any local supermarket right beside chicken, duck and other poultry.
Last week, we happened to have a lovely dinner at the local ‘bar tabac’ (the local joint where workers in the area hang out and have their lunch daily or a beer at the end of the day) where Monique, the lady who runs it, cooked up quite a meal. We’ve come to love these rustic meals where you’re fed until you have to be rolled out of your seat – the usual meal consists of at least 4 courses if not more, all for a princely sum of around 11-15 EUR including a carafe of wine. So, when at Monique’s place, we tasted the main course of rabbit, it reminded me of how i’d tried out a rabbit in mustard sauce recipe once before. We’d really enjoyed it and when I spotted some great looking rabbit meat on our last supermarket trip, I knew I had to make it once more and share it here.
So far, I’ve only tried the Saveur recipe for this classic French dish but am sure there are many variations as is the case with any classic. For instance, I did come across another French recipe where mustard is used along with a whole range of vegetables making it a more robust dish. The call is yours, you can add carrots, celery, etc to make it more filling or enjoy the meat on it’s own smothered in a rich, tangy mustard sauce.
We accompanied our meal with a fruity, slightly mature Pinot Noir from Burgundy and after having tried out the combination, I can highly recommend this as the perfect wine pairing for this dish.
Of course, if you belong to the camp that finds rabbits too cute or you simply can’t find rabbit meat, then this recipe can also be adapted to use chicken instead and it should still turn out great.
Rabbit in Mustard Sauce (Lapin à la Moutarde) – Adapted from a recipe found on Saveur.com
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 large rabbit jointed into pieces – I used about 1.3kg of meat
½ cup dijon mustard – I used wholegrain Maille mustard made in the l’ancienne style, if you’re curious, read all about it here
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large knobs of butter plus 2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion or 2-3 shallots, finely chopped
½ cup or around 125ml dry white wine
1 bouquet garni – I used a tsp each of dried thyme, dried oregano and two bay leaves
⅓ cup crème fraîche – I left this out only because I didn’t have it on hand
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley – this was left out as well
Smear the pieces of meat with the mustard and season them with salt and pepper. Heat a knob of butter along with some olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan or casserole dish on a medium-high heat. Sear the meat until they have a lovely golden brown colour to them, transfer to a plate and set aside. You may have to do this in batches if using a whole rabbit.
Reduce the heat to low, add another knob of butter to the pan and saute the chopped onion or shallot until soft. Add the wine to the pan and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom. Add the bouquet garni or any other mix of herbs you’re using, return the meat to the pan. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for about 35 minutes or until the meat is tender.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the creme fraiche and garnish with parsley if using. Serve with fresh, crusty bread to mop up the mustardy sauce.
This is an easy recipe that calls for few ingredients and makes a truly satisfying, hearty yet light supper. Something to be enjoyed in these last days of summer along with a glass of red.