While browsing the whole frozen turkey section I spotted a box of frozen rabbit. Huh. Rabbit. Rabbit? I grabbed one despite the $25 price tag. Have to try everything once, I thought.
At the checkout, the lady bagging my groceries said “I’ve never had rabbit before. It’s going to be what people raise and eat at the end of the world, you know, if you believe the apocalypse is coming. We should all be raising rabbits.” All I could really respond with was “Yeah. I’ve never had rabbit either.”
I waited until after Easter to thaw the box-o-bunny. I didn’t want Big Brother to notice the box and READ the box, then freak out about a cute fuzzy rabbit becoming dinner. Mom would understand this. Grandma apparently cooked her pet rabbit (this method will be revealed in Part 2). I had two sets of rabbits on the farm. Angora and the regular bunnies. They all disappeared suddenly too. Dad said it was probably an owl or coyote that got to them.
Those little pets did cross my mind when I pulled the rabbit from the fridge. I had to disassociate my pets from what laid before me. Is it really no different from veal or lamb? Baby cows and sheep are just as cute as a rabbit. These animals were raised for food… (trying to justify the whole thing in my head). Stopping my brain once the emotions kick in is like trying to stop the sun from setting. It took several deep breaths and “this is just like chicken” coaxes to get started with cooking. Once the meat was browning I was OK.
I made a relish/sauce/??? to braise the rabbit in the oven. The base was loquat jam made from the fruit off the tree in my yard. To counter the acidity, red onion and Worcestershire sauce were added. Then I added more stuff until it looked and tasted how I imagined it should. Still tangy but slightly sweet.
I cut up a sweet potato in large chunks and roasted them on a sheet pan. Mom gave me this idea with her roasted white potatoes. I thought the sweetness of the potatoes would marry nicely with the sweetness of the sauce.
The rabbit smelled wonderful in the oven. The red onion was soft. Dinner time.
Pepper would not leave my side once the rabbit came out of the oven. She’s never been so intent on receiving a treat from the table. I plated my dish and took it outside to use the sunset light that was vanishing quickly behind the remaining rain clouds to the west. Pepper followed me, and the smell of game, outside to the picnic table. The mere seconds it took to gather greens from the garden was enough time for Pepper to get very close to the plate and snorfle at it. I turned around at the sounds of her snouting about, “Pepper, NO!”. I narrowly saved my plate of food from being swallowed whole. “Guess you’re hungry. Better go feed you.”
She wasn’t interested in dry dog bits, not at all. Pepper followed me to the table and sat right at my side staring up at me. “This is my rabbit. Go eat your food.” She pleaded further with her eyes. I caved and tossed her a small piece of skin. Boy did she lick those chops. Her whole pink tongue slapped each side of her face. And I knew why. This rabbit was delicious!
Chef’s Note: If you cannot find loquat jam, use either pineapple or green apple finely chopped in the relish. These will give you the sour/tart flavor of the loquats.
Loquat Red Onion Rabbit
- 2-3 pounds young rabbit pieces, washed and patted dry
- 1 cup red onion, diced
- 4 teaspoons ketchup
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground prepared mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
- 1/2 cup loquat jam (see note above)
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, blended
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven or roasting pan with a lid. Season the rabbit on all sides with salt and pepper. Sear each side of the rabbit to a golden brown.
As the meat browns, combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. When the rabbit is sufficiently seared, remove it from the heat and spoon the mixture over each piece.
Cover the pan with the lid and place it in the oven for 40-45 minutes.
Rabbit should be fully cooked and register 160ºF (see USDA website) at the thickest part. Serve immediately over hot rice with roasted vegetables of the season.
This was even better the following day for lunch!