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Fresh Louisiana Rabbit: Braised Legs with Bourbon and Pearl Onions, Grilled Loins with Basil and Olive Oil

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Active Time:  35 Minutes
Total Time:  12 Hours 20 Minutes
As chef and owner of Highlands Bar & Grill and Bottega in Birmingham, I cook from inspiration from my travels in France and Italy. My heritage of growing up in a small agricultural town in North Alabama also influences my cooking. There are several reasons I like to include rabbit in a menu: of course my travels, a market in Beaune or Toulon, where a farmer with just a few fresh rabbits, maybe some goat cheese from the hills and several sachets of mountain herbs, waits for the next customer. My Southern heritage of hunting small game and memories of Granddaddy White going out for an early-morning rabbit chase also inspire me.
2 fresh rabbits, loins removed and hindquarters removed at hip joint, forequarters reserved for stock (your butcher can help you with this).

For the Stock:
olive oil
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, quartered
1/2 celery stalk, quartered
1 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 peppercorns
1 juniper berry
For the Marinade:
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 sprigs of fresh basil
1 carrot, finely chopped
For the Braised Legs and Grilled Loins:
1 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as peanut, corn, or olive
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoon bourbon
1/2 cup fruity white wine, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer
2 cups rabbit or chicken stock
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/8 cup unsalted butter
salt and ground pepper
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 bunch of fresh basil, trimmed and chopped
1 cup pearl onions, peeled and simmered for about 15 minutes, until glazed (barely covered with water), with a pinch of sugar and 1 tablespoon butter
To make the stock, in a large pot over medium heat, add enough oil to lightly coat the surface about 1 tablespoon. Add the rabbit forequarters and brown on both sides. Add the vegetables and seasonings and brown for 10 minutes. Add with water to cover. Bring to a simmer; adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, skimming the surface occasionally, for 3 hours. Strain and discard solids. The rabbit shoulders may be picked off the bone and stored (refrigerated) for up to three days. It is wonderful tossed with pasta and mushrooms.

Place the rabbit loins and hindquarters in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the olive oil, shallots, garlic, basil, and carrots and turn the rabbit pieces to coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight. Reserve the vegetables from the marinade for later use.

To prepare the braised legs, preheat an oven to 325 degrees F. Pat the rabbit legs dry. In a heavy skillet over medium high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add the legs, brown on both sides, and set aside. Add the onions, carrots, and celery along with the vegetables reserved from the marinade and cook just until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the bourbon, wine, stock, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Place the rabbit legs in a casserole just large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the contents of the skillet, cover, place in the oven, and cook until very tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the legs from the casserole and keep warm. Transfer the vegetables and liquid to a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the liquid by one-half, skimming off any fat that accumulates on the surface. Strain and return the liquid to the saucepan. Reduce by one half.

Grill or saute (in 1 tablespoon olive oil) the loins until just done, about 2 minutes on each side, until slightly pink.

Swirl the butter into reserved sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon some of the sauce on half of each serving plate; top with a leg. Place a sliced loin on other half of the plate; drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with chopped basil. Place the pearl onions in center and serve.

Recipe created exclusively for by Frank Stitt, III.

Recipe reprinted by permission of . All rights reserved.
Date Added: 01/01/2008
Nutrition Facts per Serving
Calories: 568
Fat. Total: 26g
Fiber: 4g
Carbohydrates, Total: 17g
Sodium: 628mg
% Cal. from Fat: 41%
Cholesterol: 202mg
Protein: 55g
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