18 September 2010

Bulgarian Rabbit Fricassée

When I cooked rabbit two years ago, my Mum sent me a whole batch of rabbit recipes from one of her Bulgarian cook books. In the end, I did a slow cooked stew, but when I spotted rabbits in our local butcher's, I decided to go through them again and give one a try.

I'd frozen the rabbit, which I found out is a bad idea, as it makes it go rather dry when cooking. Oh, well.

I read through all the recipes and the most appealing one seemed to be the rabbit fricassée. Almost all the recipes called for the rabbit to be marinated for 24 h and they had provided the marinade recipe for it as well.

I also intended to make sure that no small bones ruined the experience by providing an unnecessary crunch.

I defrosted the rabbit and made the marinade.

Marinade Ingredients
2 l water
0.5 l wine
2.5 dl vinegar
1 large carrot
1 medium sized onion
2 bay leaves
20 pepper corn
2 cloves

Marinade Method
  1. Mix the water, wine and vinegar in a large saucepan.

  2. Peel and wash the carrot and onion, then cut in large chunks and add to the liquid along with the bay leaves, pepper corns and cloves.

  3. Bring to the boil and let simmer with the lid on for 15 - 20 minutes, then cool completely before using.

This marinade is for game generally, not just for rabbit. Also wine and vinegar were not specified, so I chose a red Zinfandel wine. For the vinegar, I thought I'd use a stronger one - malt vinegar, but I only had 2 dl of that, so I topped up with 0.5 dl of sherry vinegar.

It was while the marinade was cooling in the sink that my cooker lid exploded.

The instructions said to pour the marinade over the rabbit, then turn it every couple of hours, but my saucepan was big enough for the rabbit to fit in nicely. So in it went and the whole lot in the fridge to marinade for 24 h or so.

Then yesterday I researched on how to joint a rabbit and found these two videos mostly useful and instructive. Part 1 and part 2.

I also sharpened my big chef's knife and took the rabbit out of the marinade. It had soaked up well and had turned purple. OK, never mind. The marinade itself smelt of Swedish mulled wine. Must have been the cloves.

Watching the first video twice, I proceeded to cutting my purple rabbit into chunks. I think my rabbit had a slightly different anatomy to the one in the video, because I encountered some extra bones here and there, but on the whole, I think I was quite successful.


I then watched the second video and ended up with this:


I know the rabbit is a pretty small animal, but the useful bits are very few. But it came with its liver and kidneys, so I decided to add them to the good bits. The rest of the rabbit was to be used for the stock.

1 marinated jointed rabbit
1 large onion
2 large carrots
1 slice of celeriac, about 100 g
2 bay leaves
20 pepper corns
salt to taste

100 g butter
4 tbsp plain flour
2.5 dl milk
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
fresh chopped parsley

  1. Dice the edible pieces of the rabbit, place in a cheese cloth and tie into a bundle. Place the bundle and the rest of the rabbit in a large saucepan.

  2. Peel and wash the carrots, onion and celeriac and cut into a few pieces and add to the saucepan.

  3. Add the bay leaves and the pepper corns and cover with water.

  4. Bring to the boil, then season well and simmer for about 1 h. Check occasionally and remove any foam that forms in order to get a clear stock.

  5. Remove the bundle and place its contents into an oven-proof dish and keep warm in the oven.

  6. Strain the stock and discard the rabbit carcass and vegetables.

  7. Melt the butter on medium heat. When it bubbles, add the flour and stir vigorously for a couple of minutes.

  8. Slowly add the milk, while stirring briskly. It'll lump together a the beginning, but as more milk is added it will turn liquid again.

  9. Once all the milk has been added, continue with the stock until you reach a thick gravy consistence.

  10. Cover the sauce and let it bubble slowly for 10 minutes.

  11. Take off the heat and stir in the two egg yolks and the lemon juice, then pour the sauce over the rabbit, sprinkle the parsley and serve.


The recipe recommended that this dish be served with mashed potatoes, so I made Delia's Perfect Mashed Potato, which I've done on many occasions and it has never disappointed.

I had also picked what is probably the last runner beans of the season and I cut them in pieces and steamed, then stirred through with knob of butter at the end.

Given all the effort, this was a bit of a disappointment. The recipe didn't actually specify the amount of water to use, I got almost 2 l stock in the end. It also didn't specify how long to cook for, it just said until it goes soft. Well, it was soft when it was raw and when I checked it after an hour it was quite solid. I wanted to be on the really safe side and gave it another 30 minutes and the meat was very dry, so no more than an hour. And I suspect the freezing contributed a lot to the dryness as well.

The liver and kidneys were very strongly flavoured and I think I'll save them next time and make pate from them, rather than add to the rabbit dish.

I used about 6 dl of the stock for the sauce and it made up way too much for the handful of meat, but the sauce very good and might work with white meat of chicken and turkey, as it had quite a nice aroma. And I have over a litre of stock left, which I will freeze in portions, it is also quite good.

In all, the marinade was good and I'd like to try it on other meat. The sauce would be well worth using elsewhere. I'm glad and proud that I managed to joint the rabbit on my own and I now need to buy a slightly smaller, but much sharper knife than I currently have. And I'll repeat the slow cooked recipe next time, it was so much tastier.

And stay away from runner beans after July. The ones I served last night were so very stringy, it was practically impossible to eat, I ended up splitting them in half and just scraping off the inner-most bits.

Lundulph said the dinner was OK, but it's not one we should repeat. Though perhaps the liver and kidney put him off for the rest of the fricassée. Once you'd eaten a bite from them, the flavour remained in the mouth and it was impossible to taste the actual rabbit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, you did a brilliant job jointing the rabbit!

We've had some success cooking rabbit before but our last attempt wasn't brilliant. Long and slow cooking is the key I think, having browned it first.

It didn't occur to me that freezing would make it drier but it makes sense.