The Best Dish of Summer

It’s really hard to designate “best dish of the season,” because it is usually the one you’re in the process of eating. That said, if I put the word “Rabbit” in a blog post title, I don’t think anyone would read it!

I love to prepare and teach how to prepare rabbit, and not just for the delicacy of its flavor and texture. I love it because it’s the perfect meat. Rabbits are light on the land. They’re herbivores that eat kitchen scraps. They breed like…rabbits.  They don’t take up much space. Their meat is lean.  That they taste wonderful and are quick and easy to cook count, too.  I’d love to see our palates move to rabbit – think of all the corn we wouldn’t need to grow, the water we wouldn’t need to use, the pasture we could transfer to something useful.

But this is a post about flavor and technique!  And the first step to this dish is procuring a rabbit. In the U.S., this usually requires a special order, and often the the rabbit is frozen, which is just fine.  Here in France, the rabbit comes complete – with head, liver, and kidneys (no fur!).  I always remove the head and discard it; I carefully remove the liver and sauté it to serve as an appetizer because rabbit liver is a gastronomic wonder. The kidneys stay right where they are, a gift to the person who gets the piece of loin that contains them.

For this recipe, each piece of rabbit is either wrapped around or stuffed with a very thin slice of organic lemon, and a bay leaf. I know, bay leaves aren’t really edible, but they’re absolutely vital to the flavor of this dish so I ask diners to simply set them aside.  It’s an easy thing to do.

And before I proceed to give you the recipe, yes, you may use chicken as a substitute for rabbit.

Some tips for the success of this dish:

Have the rabbit at room temperature.

Use a very sharp knife to make a pocket in the thigh, for the stuffing.

Making a pocket for the stuffing
Making a pocket for the stuffing

Lay the stuffing on the loin piece, then wrap the meat around it.

A piece of loin about to be tied into a bundle
A piece of loin about to be tied into a bundle

Firmly tie up each piece, so it cooks evenly.

Rabbit with liver
Rabbit with liver

Brown the rabbit.

In the pan to brown
In the pan to brown

Cook it briefly.

Enjoy it heartily!  Bon Appétit!

The finished dish
The finished dish





For the rabbit:

One 3 pound (1-1/2 kg) rabbit, cut in 6 serving pieces

4 fresh bay leaves (or dried from the Laurus nobilis)

½ lemon, cut into 4 lengthwise pieces

1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 large shallot, diced

1 medium-spicy red chili, seeded and diced

Or ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes, slightly crushed

2 teaspoons honey, heated until it is liquid but not boiled

¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup cilantro or basil leaves


For the Eggplant:

1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil

4 medium eggplant, sliced into thin (1/4-inch) rounds

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

2. Stuff each piece of rabbit with a bay leaf and a slice of lemon.  You’ll need to work around the trussing if you’ve purchased them trussed, or simply re-truss them.

3.  To sear the pieces of rabbit, place 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, brown the rabbit on all sides, which will take 5 to 7 minutes.  Season them generously with salt and pepper, then place them in the oven for 15 minutes, until they are deep golden.  Remove from the oven and let them rest for at least 5 minutes, and up to 20 minutes.

4.  While the pieces of rabbit are roasting, make the vinaigrette. Place the white wine vinegar in a bowl with the shallot and the chili. Whisk in the honey, then whisk in the olive oil.  Taste for seasoning, and reserve.

5.  Lightly oil a heavy baking sheet with olive oil.  Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheet, then brush them thoroughly with olive oil.   Season with salt and pepper and bake in the center of the oven until they begin to soften and turn golden, about 15 minutes. Turn them, and return to the oven for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

6.  To serve, arrange the eggplant rounds in the center of six plates.  Set a piece of rabbit atop the rounds, and drizzle each with equal amounts of vinaigrette. Garnish with herb sprigs, and serve.

Serves 6



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