Sunday, April 18, 2010


Trowlesworthy rabbit with prunesOur 2008 trip to Greece was full of culinary firsts. Besides specifically Greek wine, spirits, candy, and breads, I also had inaugural tastings of fresh figs, rooster, octopus, and rabbit.

Even before I went, I knew that I was going to eat rabbit in Greece. It was on my to-do list. At the time, I put rabbit in the same category as brains and shark meat. Even though I see more rabbits in a given day than cows, from a culinary perspective, rabbit was very exotic.

Finally, at a beachside taverna on Syros, I ate my first rabbit dish. I was served one hind leg with tomato sauce and potatoes. Frankly, I was underwhelmed.

Before leaving for Greece, people were so shocked when I mentioned that I planned to eat rabbit, I expected the meat would have some kind of jarring, gamey taste to match. The truth is, it has more bite than chicken, but not as much as pork, and a very mild flavour. Don't misunderstand me: it's good meat. I was just... surprised.

Rabbit plays a fairly important role in traditional Greek cooking. A meat stew called stifadho, which is practically the national dish of Hellas, was until recently most often made with rabbit and pearl onions. Rabbit meat appears in several other dishes, often paired with fruit, especially currants and prunes.

One of our favourite restaurants in Greece was Portes, in Hania, Crete. "Portes" means "doors", and the stone walk approaching the taverna is lined with brightly painted wooden doors, leaning against an adjacent fence. After our meal, the bill came with a recipe for rabbit with prunes printed on a souvenir bookmark. Lisa and I have been talking about cooking rabbit ever since then, and this week, with Greek food on the brain, we finally did it.

Buying Rabbit in Edmonton

During the weeks approaching Easter, the Trowlesworthy Farms booth at the Strathcona farmers' market displayed a small sign advertising rabbit for sale. It had a cartoon bunny on it that might have been ripped from a child's colouring book. It seems that our pastoral, childhood associations with rabbits are inevitable, even when dealing with an eviscerated rabbit carcass. (For more on this topic, read this Rob Mifsud blogpost, the truly shocking reader comments that follow, and Anthony Bourdain's response, called The Lessons of Bunnies.) This was the first time I had seen rabbit at the farmers' market. It was no doubt brought in as an Easter special, but I am sure you could order one any time of the year. I also know that certain butcher shops, like Easyford, will order in rabbits at your request.

Here is how we prepared our Trowlesworthy bunny.

Rabbit with Prunes
Adapted from a recipe by Susanna Koutoulaki of Portes restaurant, Hania, Crete

  • 1 rabbit, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400mL white wine
  • 1 bowl prunes
  • 2 tbsp of brandy (Metaxa would be appropriate...)
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper

  1. Soak the prunes in water.
  2. Brown the rabbit pieces in oil. Remove from pan.
  3. Sweat onions, garlic, and paprika.
  4. Deglaze pan with brandy and wine. Cook off alcohol.
  5. Return rabbit to pan. Add bay leaves and prunes, with their soaking water.
  6. Cover and simmer until rabbit is tender, at least an hour.
  7. Serve on rice.
A Note on Cutting up Rabbit

Traditionally rabbits are segmented as follows: the two forelegs, the rib section, the saddle (the backbone with the two loins, two tenderloins, and two "side flaps"), two hind legs, and tail section. In a rustic preparation, all these parts, with bones, would be thrown into a stew. I didn't feel like picking through bones while eating, so I only included the hind legs, each separated into two, and the loins, cut into stew-sized pieces. The rest, including the meaty side flaps and kidneys, I reserved for a future project.

No comments:

Post a Comment