I feel slightly guilty posting this recipe a few days before Easter. As you probably know, Easter is not only associated with Jesus' resurrection, but also with the Easter bunny. The Easter bunny brings and hides colored eggs for children to find and here I am, serving it up for them! To appease my guilt over serving this fantastic dish just a few days before Easter, I did a little digging over the origins of the Easter bunny.
It seems that in early Christian days, when missionaries were trying to spread the Christian message covertly for fear of persecution for themselves and their new converts, there was already a pagan festival in place around the time that the Christians celebrated the resurrection. This pagan festival honored Eostre, the goddess of spring and the renewal of Earth's fertility. Her symbol was the rabbit, which was one of the most fertile animals known. In order to protect the new Christians, missionaries encouraged them to celebrate the pagan festivals in Christian ways, thus, the rise of the Easter bunny.
Even after knowing that the symbol of the Easter bunny had its origins in pagan times, my guilt still weighed heavily upon me until I read that rabbit has lower fat and higher protein than chicken. Also, the fact that my children were excited to eat rabbit assuaged my guilt almost completely, and the kicker, that it was so wonderful, finally had me guilt free.
This recipe again was modified from Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman. I served it with a simple dish of roasted asparagus, mashed potatoes with mustard and crunchy shallots, and a raspberry sorbet with thai chilis and lemon. A perfect, Sunday lunch, aside from the slight guilt of eating a rabbit so close to Easter.
Rabbit with mustard adapted from Simple to Spectacular
2 Tbls. olive oil
3 Tbls. unsalted butter
One 2-3 pound rabbit cut into 6 pieces
Head of garlic (about 10 cloves) peeled and slightly crushed
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
20 pearl onions, peeled
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 c. dijon mustard
2 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbls. sherry vinegar
Parsley for garnish
1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large, oven-safe skillet, add the olive oil and butter and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the rabbit pieces and turn the heat to high. When rabbit starts to brown, flip it over and add to the skillet the garlic cloves, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. When the rabbit is nicely browned on both sides, add the pearl onions and place the skillet in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
2. Remove all pieces of meat from the skillet, except for the legs, and place them on a baking sheet. Add the wine to the skillet, place it over medium-high heat, and scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom with a wooden spoon. When the bits are all scraped up, place the skillet back into the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
3. In the meantime, coat the pieces of rabbit on the baking tray in mustard, then dip them in the bread crumbs to coat both sides. Place the pieces back on the baking tray. When the legs have cooked the additional 10 minutes, remove them from the skillet as well, coat in mustard and then in bread crumbs. Turn on the broiler, place the rabbit pieces on the baking sheet a good 6 inches away from the broiler, and broil until lightly browned on both sides, flipping once.
4. Strain the cooking liquid from the skillet into a small saucepan. Add the sherry vinegar and bring to a boil. Spoon some of the sauce onto each of the plates and top with a piece of rabbit. Garnish with a bit of parsley and serve.