Rabbit Hops Back into Our Hearts (and Roasting Pans)

Open the most recent edition of The Art of Eating (sorry, not available online) and you’ll learn a lot about an animal long confined to the margins of the American table. Good old rabbit—what Elmer Fudd was so earnestly questing for every time he set his sights on Bugs Bunny—makes a cameo appearance in this quarter’s edition of the magazine. Out of fashion for its cuddly image (“You’re cooking Thumper?”) and “tastes like chicken” reputation, rabbit is making its way back into kitchens as chefs become increasingly aware of its unique charms.

Chefs from restaurants such as Chez Panisse and Madison, Wisconsin’s Harvest testify on behalf of the animal, which should feature tender, juicy meat complicated by savory notes of grass and game. As you might expect, a rabbit is not a rabbit is not a rabbit; one of the piece’s most interesting diversions examines an effort by Slow Food’s Ark of Taste to identify and preserve dwindling strains of rabbit that might hold great promise for future generations of chefs. For those keeping score at home: The “sweet” taste of the Silver Fox was the panel’s favorite, with layered flavors of butter and herbs.

The article concludes with a fascinating digression about hare, an animal that is distinct from the rabbit both biologically and gastronomically. The Limburger cheese of the small quadruped world (the odor is gamy in the extreme, even if the flavor is excellent), hare is the main ingredient in lièvre à la royale. One version of the dish involves a hare stuffed with foie gras and truffles and then cooked slowly in a marinade for two hours on each of three successive days. Gamy or not, that sounds like it’s worth a shot.

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