Rabbit Braised in Red Wine or Civet de Lapin

Rabbit Braised in Red Wine or Civet de Lapin

Rabbit braised in red wine or Civet de Lapin is another french classic which somehow feels more special when served in the autumn. In Kenya the seasons are the exact opposite of what they are in Canada, and so the coldest months are July and August and the hottest ones January and February. So yes,…it is mid August and it is cold and cloudy in Nairobi, fireplaces are ablaze, duvet covers and woolen shawls are in use, Braised rabbit fills the house with its sweet aroma and the wine works magic on our souls and bodies.

1 whole rabbit about 3 pounds
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, cut on large chunks
20 pearl onions
4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 whole pepper corns
2 rosemary sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
2 whole sage leaves
2 cups red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbs duck fat
2 Tbs canola oil
1Tbs flour
1 Tbs tomato paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the rabbit: Ask your butcher to clean and cut the rabbit in 8 pieces. If not, do it yourself using a very sharp heavy knife, discard all the organs, fat and any stray hair. Wash and place the pieces in a large bowl. Add the chopped onions, carrots, garlic, pepper corns, rosemary, thyme and sage. Add the wine, making sure the meat is submerged, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, but not more.

Brown the meat: Remove the meat from the bowl, pat dry with paper towel, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and set aside. Reserve the vegetables and wine from the marinate separately.
Heat the duck fat and oil in a dutch oven or a heavy pot over medium high. The combination of the duck fat and canola is a great way to beautifully brown the rabbit. Brown the meat in batches, turning once.

Braise:Remove the meat and add the reserved vegetables to the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add the flour and tomato paste stir and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the wine, the chicken stock and the herbs from the marinate and bring to a boil. Return the rabbit to the pot, close and simmer on low heat for 1 to 1:30 hours depending on the your rabbit. After 50 min check the tenderness of the meat and adjust the seasoning. When the meat almost ready add the pearl onions to the pot and cook for 15 more minutes.

When the rabbit is tender, gently remove the meat, the carrots and the pearl onions from the casserole and set aside. Strain the sauce and discard the solids. Skim the sauce of any fat with a spoon and return it to the dutch oven. Adjust the consistency of the sauce by boiling it down if too thin or by adding a couple of spoons of stock if too thick. Bring the sauce to a simmer again and add the Worcestershire sauce which adds an extra layer of depth to the stew. Return the meat and vegetables to the pot to heat them up before serving.

Serve with Duchesse potatoes.

Make ahead: Like most stews, civet au lapin is great for entertaining because it can be made the day before your party and refrigerated. After straining and skimming the sauce, return it to the pot, arrange the rabbit peaces on the bottom and than gently place the carrots and onions on top without mixing, cover and chill. 20 min before serving heat the stew on low heat.

Wine suggestions: Beaujolais-Villages, Côte Chalonnaise or a good New Wolds Cabernet Franc.

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