Rabbit with Morels and Gnocchi

5 from 5 votes
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rabbit with morels recipes
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Sometimes you just gotta go for it.

Every spring I get overwhelmed by all the new ingredients that make this such a special season for food: morels, asparagus, fiddleheads, ramps, nettles, green garlic, fava beans — the list goes on. Spring is also when I start to move away from red meats and toward lighter fare like fish, turkey and rabbits.

You’ll see these foods a lot in the next couple months, but I thought I’d start spring off with a recipe that is concentrated springtime.

Slow-poached rabbit (an almost-confit), shredded off the bone and tossed with a flavorful oil to keep it moist, simply seared morel mushrooms, barely cooked fiddleheads (or asparagus or favas or fresh peas), a little garlic and some very special gnocchi. Sometimes I add some lemon juice to brighten things up, sometimes I skip it.

The flavors shine strongly and each thing on the plate tastes somehow “clean” and fresh.

The gnocchi are made with stinging nettles, but any spring green would work. Spinach is an obvious choice, as is parsley. But you could use miner’s lettuce, pea puree or any other soft, vivid green thing.

Rabbit with morels and gnocchi
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

It’s a deceptively simple plate of food, but you will need some time to put it all together. I can tell you it’s worth your time, and what’s more, you can do it in stages, even to the point where, you once you have everything made, you can whip this up in the time it takes to boil water.

Enjoy spring, folks! Get out there and gather, fish, hunt, garden. Embrace the green!

Rabbit with morels and gnocchi
5 from 5 votes

Rabbit with Morels and Nettle-Ricotta Gnocchi

There are three distinct things going on with this recipe, and you don't need to do all of them to enjoy this dish. For example, I really like the slow-simmered rabbit like this, but you could cook it another way and it would still be nice. You can also sub in chicken or turkey or pheasant or quail. And you can certainly use store-bough gnocchi or pasta if you don't want to make it by hand. If you do want to make this dish as written, it's a weekend type meal if you do it all at once. But you can work in stages. You can salt down the rabbit, rinse it, dry it and keep in the fridge up to a week ahead. Or you can go through with cooking it, pull the meat from the bones and have that stored in the fridge for up to a week. You can make the gnocchi up to a month or two before and freeze them. And you can blanch the fiddleheads (or other green thing) up to a day or two ahead and they will still be good.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

RABBIT

  • 22 grams kosher salt (about 2 tablespoons) per pound of rabbit
  • 1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 cups chicken, rabbit or duck broth
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil, olive oil or melted butter

GNOCCHI

  • 2 ounces of blanched nettles, parsley or spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour

MORELS

  • 8 to 12 ounces of fresh morels, cut into disks
  • 3 tablespoons of the same oil you used with the rabbit
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 8 ounces of fiddleheads, fava beans, fresh peas or asparagus
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Lemon juice (optional)

Instructions 

  • Toss the rabbit with the salt so all the pieces are well coated. Set aside in the fridge for 3 hours, while you make the gnocchi and such.
  • Boil the nettles, parsley or spinach is a large pot of salty water: Boil nettles and spinach 2 minutes, parsley only 1 minute. Plunge into a big bowl of ice water, drain and squeeze to remove excess water. You want the greens to be damp, though. While you have the water boiling, boil the fiddleheads or whatever spring vegetable you're using: Boil fiddleheads 3 minutes, favas, peas or asparagus 2 minutes. Shock in the ice water, pat dry and set aside for now. Turn the heat off the water.
  • Chop the nettles, then put them in a food processor with the salt, the egg and half the ricotta cheese. Blitz this for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. You want the fibers of the nettles to be well broken down. Put the contents of the food processor into a large bowl and add the rest of the ricotta, the parmesan cheese and the nutmeg. Stir in the flour bit by bit until you have a loose dough that you can just barely roll into a log. If you are not familiar with making gnocchi, you will need more than 1 cup. Put a towel over the dough as you make the gnocchi.
  • Cut off 1/4 of the dough and roll it into a log about 1/2 inch thick on a work surface that you've dusted with flour. Cut off little pillows from the log. Carefully pick up each pillow -- this is a gnoccho -- and roll it off the tines of a fork held upside down to give it little ridges; you can skip this step if you are very new at gnocchi. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Set the finished gnocchi in the fridge for now.
  • When the rabbit has brined for 3 hours, rinse it off and pat it dry. Find a medium pot that will just barely fit the rabbit and submerge the pieces in the broth. Add the sprig of thyme. If the broth doesn't cover the rabbit, add a little water. Cover the pot and simmer the rabbit until it starts to fall off the bone, about 90 minutes. When the rabbit is ready, pick the meat off the bones and coat in the walnut oil. Set aside.
  • To finish the dish, get the blanching water hot again and keep it at a simmer. Put the morels in a large saute pan and set the heat to high. Soon the morels will steam and sizzle and give up their water. When they do, salt them. When most of the water is gone, add the walnut oil and saute the morels until they start to brown on the edges, about 3 to 6 minutes. Add the rabbit and the garlic -- and now's the time to start boiling your gnocchi. When the gnocchi go into the boiling water, add the fiddleheads to the pan with the morels. Saute just to get everything hot.
  • When the gnocchi are ready, add them to the pan with everything else, toss to combine and add salt and black pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice if you want and serve at once.

Nutrition

Calories: 486kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 194mg | Sodium: 2043mg | Potassium: 1012mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1849IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 274mg | Iron: 10mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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13 Comments

  1. Hey — I’m planning to triple this recipe — do you think it’d be alright using one big pot for all 3 rabbits or should I try to segment everything into 3 pots, one for each rabbit?

  2. So is this the dish formerly known as winter into spring? Pretty stoked to try this, as I just happen to have everything on hand and ready to go. Freshly foraged morels, nettles, and asparagus, and coincidentally pulled some pheasant from the freezer a couple days ago.

    Oh, and I also scored some wipers and crappie yesterday, so looks like Nettle Soup is on the list as well.

    We’re jammin!

  3. If I make the gnocchi tonight to use tomorrow, still best to store them in the freezer, or would it make more sense to refrigerate?

    1. Adam: Yes. Freeze on a sheet tray or plate and then boil right from the freezer. The gnocchi will last for ~2 months without getting weird that way. Once they’re frozen, put them into a freezer bag, though.

  4. This looks amazing! We have a hare in the freezer that my FIL hunted and I was wondering if I could substitute that for the rabbit? Would it need a longer brining or cooking time? Thank you for any advise you have!

  5. Oh! This recipe sounds amazing! I’m hoping my husband brings me some rabbit soon. I know you said this dish would be great with other types of meat, but I LOVE rabbit, so I’ll hold off, for now. 🙂

    In the meantime, I think I’ll give that gnocchi a try. We have no shortage of stinging nettles around here!

  6. Is there a trick to re hydrating dried morels? Since they are about to pop up here in Oklahoma again I should try to do something with the dried ones. Thanks!

  7. Instead of rabbit, I think this might be a fitting solution to the wild rooster that’s been waking me up at 4:30 in the morning this past week! We’re lucky enough to be able to get ho’io (fiddleheads) here in Hawaii for next to nothing at the farmers market, or in the nearest gulch for the price of a few mosquito bites. Would oyster mushrooms be a good substitute for morels?

  8. its nice to see fiddleheads featured! I described them to a vendor at the farmers market near me and he looked at me like I had two heads. He had no idea what they were!