All about rabbit > Buying, Storing, Preparing, Cooking, Enjoying Rabbit
Rabbit is almost always sold skinned and cleaned, either whole or cut up. A whole rabbit weighs between 1.3 and 1.5 kg (about 3 lb.) and will serve 4 to 5. Unlike some other meats, rabbit does not melt away when cooked.
A good rabbit will have flexible front legs, and abundant, fairly white meat… in other words nice and plump with fat kidneys. These are signs of freshness.
Good to know: the forequarters are darker red.
If the rabbit is sold with its liver, it should be pale and evenly colored with no dark spots. The final criterion is less obvious and concerns the animal's diet. Hence the difference between buying rabbit in a supermarket as opposed to from a producer who can tell you how the rabbit was fed.
Cut up, allow 350 g (12 oz.) per person.
When well wrapped, rabbit will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. It can be frozen (up to seven months), preferably vacuum-packed, otherwise it will lose some of its flavor. Thaw slowly in the refrigerator.
Marinating is not required, though a short soak in oil moistens and tenderizes the meat. You can add an acidic ingredient (red or white wine) for roasted or braised rabbit, sherry for English-style rabbit, Port for Portuguese-style, Calvados and apples, cognac and cream, Armagnac and prunes, and so on.
If you decide to cook the rabbit in two stages, you can marinate the legs for 24 hours.
If you decide to cook a whole rabbit, tie it up in the fetal position so that it keeps its shape. Stick a skewer through the head and back to keep the head upright. Even when cooked, it will retain its pride!
For rabbit pieces, the animal is generally cut into 7: forelegs (2), hind legs and thighs (2), saddle, cut in half (2) and breast (1).
People are often in the habit (and it's a bad habit) of overcooking rabbit until the meat falls off the bone. The meat should still be slightly pink next to the bone. If your guests say "It's underdone… Were we early?" as they pick at the meat on their plate, you can always ask them, "How do you eat your lamb?".
It's best to cook rabbit gently; this method keeps it from drying out and toughening. The meat is perfect for stews (such as the classic French civet), braises and dishes with sauce. Once cooked, these casseroles can keep for a week in the refrigerator - and they're almost better reheated!
To avoid bone chips in the sauce, cut the flanks with kitchen scissors and wipe the meat well. Then cut the back with the point of a knife, along the backbone.
Photo: Fédération du lapin de France
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