The White Rabbit
January 10, 2013 | Updated August 01, 2022
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Follow me down into my burrow for a moment, for I am about to show you the wonders of the white rabbit, a wondrous Italian rabbit recipe.
Wha, white rabbit? No, no drugs involved. I have something more rare, more fleeting, in mind: Restraint. Subtlety and restraint are two traits rarely seen in American cooking. We Americans like Big Food, with Big Flavors. Red things, like chili and barbecue sauce and tomatoes. Chipotle for all!
Rabbits don’t like big loud things. They get easily overwhelmed. Slather BBQ sauce on a rabbit and it’s still good, but it becomes less of a rabbit and more of an anonymous white protein.
To shine, rabbit needs to surround itself with ingredients and cooking methods that are more demure. This Italian rabbit recipe does exactly that.
I draw my inspiration for it from one of my “desert island” cookbooks, Paul Bertolli’s Cooking by Hand. Chef Bertolli is a master of braised meats, and he notes that rabbit is one of the few foods that really doesn’t benefit from browning the way say, duck or lamb does. That caramelization, the mighty Maillard Reaction we all know and love, strips rabbit of much that is special to it.
So this recipe skips that step and uses a Chinese technique instead: To prevent your braise from getting a layer of frothy scum on top (a layer caused by coagulating blood and proteins from uncooked meat), you blanch the rabbit briefly, before it goes into the braising pot.
You then surround the bunny with white wine, olive oil, a very quick stock you make from the “off” parts of the rabbit, along with roasted garlic and green olives.
Eating this Italian rabbit will make you taste rabbit in a whole new way. You will realize, perhaps for the first time, that rabbit does not in fact taste like chicken, although it looks like it. Rabbit tastes like rabbit. And this, you will see, is a good thing.
What Sort of Rabbit?
Regular, store-bought rabbits are perfect here; you can often find them frozen in the supermarket, or, sometimes, at farmer’s markets. I normally use cottontails here, and you’ll need three to serve four people. Snowshoe hares are another great choice, and you could use chicken or squirrel, too, if that’s what you have.
Don’t use hares or jackrabbits, as they are dark meat.
Looking for more rabbit recipes? I have another braised rabbit recipe here, a German rabbit soup, as well as a lovely Greek rabbit stew.
Coniglio Bianco, Italian Braised Rabbit
QUICK RABBIT STOCK
- Ribs, neck and belly flaps from the rabbits
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 10 crushed juniper berries (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
- 2 to 4 cottontails, snowshoe hares or domestic rabbits
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, sliced root to stalk
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth
- 1 cup quick rabbit stock (see above)
- 5 to 6 cloves, roasted or preserved garlic
- 10 to 20 green olives, pitted and cut in half
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- First you must break down your rabbits. (See note below) Save the stray bones in the pelvis, ribs, belly flaps and neck for the stock.
- To make the stock, Cover all the rabbit pieces -- not just the stray ones -- into a pot and cover them with cool water by about 1/2 inch. Bring this to a boil, then turn off the heat. Skim off any sludgy stuff that floats to the top. Fish out all the good pieces of rabbit -- legs and saddle -- and put them in a bowl in the fridge. Add the remaining stock ingredients, return everything to a bare simmer and cook for 1 hour. Strain and set aside.
- Now find a heavy, lidded pot such as a Dutch oven and heat the olive oil over medium heat. When it is hot, add the sliced onions and cook until soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add the white wine, 1 cup of the stock, the rabbit pieces from the fridge, the thyme and the garlic cloves. Bring to a simmer and add salt to taste. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot and cook until the meat is tender, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
- Finish the dish by adding the green olives and fresh parsley. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes and serve.
Keys to Success
- No rabbit? You can do this with chicken thighs.
- I use my preserved garlic for this recipe, but you can also simply roast a head of garlic: Slice the top quart off a head, set it in foil, drizzle olive oil over it, close the foil, then bake at 375°F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Serve with mashed potatoes, white polenta or rice. A green thing alongside is always nice, too.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Loved this served over pureed celeriac (steamed, pureed with garlic and parm). The celeriac took what was already great to amazing. Used our domestic rabbit too.
I make this with older domestic rabbits, Flemmish Giants. I stick pretty much to the recipe except thay I use chicken stock instead of rabbit stock. Then I pull the rabbit off the bone, add a jar of sliced olives to the meat and put five ounces on a toasted garlic bun. This makes a fantastic sandwich.
I tried cooking rabbit for the first time, using this recipe. I chose it because it was simple and featured the rabbit’s flavor. Instructions for breaking down the rabbit were super clear and it all went off without a hitch to make such a tasty dish. I looked through a bunch of my cookbooks, but your recipe shone through. Thank you so much!
I have eaten rabbit many times before but never attempted to cook it myself. I chose this recipe because I had all the ingredients on hand. The rabbit that was given to me was already broken down and none of the bits were there for making stock so I used homemade chicken stock instead. That was the only deviation in the recipe. It turned out amazing. Hubby practically licked his plate and declared that we are definitely going to start hunting bunnies more often. Looking forward to trying it again with the rabbit stock instead. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.
I’ll be making this a second time tonite. It is excellent and a wonderful break from the rabbit stews I usually make. Will be substituting a cauliflower gratin for the the mashed potato and cabbage since we are on a paleo kick right now. Bon Appetit!
I am lucky enough to have three wild bunnies in my freezer and thought I would try a different recipe. This came up in a search so I’ll have a go at it tomorrow. Thanks.
Thank you for making my first rabbit cooking experience awesome! You are very informative on the different types of game and it helped a lot for choosing this recipe. My hubby’s birthday dinner turned out amazing! =^^=
Tried your Rabbit in Mustard Sauce Recipe from Simply Recipes last night,
my wife and I both enjoyed it very much. I just happened to run across that recipe while looking for something else and was surprised to find a rabbit recipe from you that I had not seen before. Do you have a lot of recipes out there that are only on other websites? Is there an easy way to find or link to them? If not would you consider adding links in the appropriate recipe categories on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook? I’d hate to miss any of your stuff.
Thank you for this recipe. It turned out really well. The only thing I did different was the broth on one day and the rest of the recipe on the next day.
Thanks for this recipe my rabbit source has just left 4 dozen rabbits at the shop door,and i could do with all the recipes i can get my hands on!
I shall be sending my customers in the direction of your blog for some inspiration.
Many thanks,form a very cold,ruddy cheeked butcher in snowy northwest England!
Mandi: Yep, just add more broth, and a squeeze of lemon juice for some acidity.
My husband is a recovering alcoholic and doesn’t like the idea of wine in his food, even though he logically knows the alcohol burns off. Would it be suitable to substitute more broth to make up for the omission of the wine?
I so enjoy cooking with rabbit. Thanks for sharing what looks to be a delicious recipe. I’ll have to try it out.
Agree with you on the importance of subtlety in cooking Rabbit. For this past easter I made “Lapin a la Gueuze”. A braised rabbit dish that uses Gueuze a slightly tart, earthy, funky Belgian beer. Next time I think I will try the no browning technique and see how that works.
Hey Tina, just don’t eat the olives.
Hi Hank, have you ever posted your recipe for polenta, I haven’t been able to find it? It looks simple (and great), but I know the technique varies from person to person.
Thank you! Lloyd
I am delighted to have found your pages via a blog. I try my best to lead the kind of life you describe, although it can be challenging here in the Outer Hebrides. Rabbit is so often underrated, but it one of the finest wild meats and your recipe looks delicious. I will be trying it. I look forward to your recipes and posts. Thanks, Tracey
I’ve checked out Cooking By Hand from the library so many times- such a great book! I really like the way you’ve approached rabbit here, and look forward to giving the recipe a try.
Tina: How about capers? They’d be good, You want a little salty nugget in there. Roasted pine nuts would be good, too.
Thanks for posting this, Hank. I’ve never cooked rabbit before, but I think it’s time to give it a try. However, I’m not a fan of olives, so do you think the omission would seriously impact the result? Or could you suggest a reasonable substitute?