Please try to have an open mind. The thought of cooking rabbit scared me, it might really scare you too, but trust me. I was also skeptical at first, but with a little convincing from Matt and the butcher, we were cooking something foreign to both of us and it turned out absolutely delicious.
Grand Central Market opened in downtown LA in 1917 and is one of the country's oldest and largest public market places. It has evolved over the last 98 years with downtown LA's ever changing neighborhood. Up until the last few years, the stalls consisted mostly of Mexican vendors. Historically, waves of delis, produce vendors, flower shops and fish mongers have appeared and disappeared. The market is a bustling and crowded space with aromas of stewed meats, baked goods, and fresh produce in the air. You can find everything from pizzas to papusas, to oysters and dried chilies and everything in between. The last couple of years have brought new vendors like the amazing Horse Thief BBQ, a breakfast stall called Eggslut, and my favorite butcher, Belcampo Meat Co.
Belcampo has another location in Santa Monica and a few in Northern California. They have the most beautiful cuts of humanely raised meats and also a little bar where they serve food. Matt and I like to shop there on the weekends for our Sunday dinners. After we purchase the meat, we stop by all of the produce vendors for fresh veggies. We usually end up picking a meat we've cooked many times before, like a roast or lamb shanks. This time I was ready to buy a flank steak for the grill to serve with chimichurri sauce, white rice and plantains (just like how my mom makes it). All of a sudden, rabbit caught Matt's eye. Neither of us have eaten a lot of rabbit (I think I've only had it once) and Matt was excited to experiment. I was skeptical but the next thing I knew, the butcher was grabbing us a whole rabbit and breaking it down into smaller pieces. He let us know that braising low and slow would be the perfect way to cook it. He was right.
My brother decided to join us for dinner. He's not afraid of a little rabbit, or any other type of food for that matter. We all couldn't wait for the soup to finish cooking. We kept tasting the broth to get the seasoning just right. When we were finally able to eat Matt kept saying it tasted like "fancy chicken." The entire pot was almost finished by just the three of us. It was tender, juicy and falling off the bone. I couldn't have been happier with how the whole thing turned out. We set out to make a stew but luckily ended up with a loose broth that was refreshingly light and perfect for spring weather.
If the thought of rabbit terrifies you, please feel free to substitute the rabbit for chicken thighs. But I must admit, the rabbit was so delicious, I'm glad Matt pushed me to try something new. You should too.
- 1 whole rabbit, cut into pieces by the butcher
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stalk of celery
- 3 spring onions (these are bigger than green onions)
- 2 medium rutabagas (you can use potatoes if you can't find these)
- 10 small turnips, pealed and quartered
- leaves from 15 stalks of thyme
- 1/2 bottle white wine
- 4 tbsp flour
- 10 cups of chicken broth
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cup fresh snap peas
- tarragon, to garnish
- chives, to garnish
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 300F. Peal and dice your carrots and rutabagas into cubes. Peal and quarter your turnips. Chop the celery and white parts of your spring onions. Reserve the green parts for when the soup is complete. Set all of the veggies aside.
Season the pieces of rabbit with salt. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven. In batches, sear the pieces of rabbit on all sides. Remove rabbit from the pan and set aside. Add a little olive oil to the pan then add the whites to your spring onions, carrots, celery, rutabagas, turnips and thyme. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions look translucent, about 8 minutes.
Add chicken stock to the pot, half the bottle of white wine, flour, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 10 minutes to mellow the wine flavor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the rabbit back to the pot and place in the oven for 2 hrs and 15-30 minutes, until the rabbit is tender and falling off the bone. Add the snap peas and green parts of the spring onions when you feel like there are only 10 minutes left to cook so the color stays a vibrant green and so the snap peas have some crunch to them. Serve with lemon wedges and toasted buttered french bread on the side.