Rabbit meat is very popular in France which is the fourth-largest producer in the world after China, Italy and Spain with 40 million animals consumed per year.
Rabbit meat is a lean kind of meat with little cholesterol but with plenty of proteins, minerals and Omega 3 fatty acids.
The quality of the meat depends, as always, on the way the animals were kept, fed and killed.
As for chicken, many rabbits are raised in cages and while the some are sold as Lapin de Garenne (wild rabbit) or Lapin du Clapier (rabbit from the cage) which evokes either the wild rabbits you can even see in Paris parks or the ones kept in a big cage in the garden and fed the leftovers from the kitchen as well as greens.
Most rabbits, however, are raised in cramped cages, stacked in dark buildings and killed by electroshock.
So before you buy a dead rabbit, check its provenance and how it has been fed. The Red Label rabbits in France have had more space to jump around and more time to live, they are therefore also more expensive.
In the English-speaking world, and in France, the rabbit is associated with Easter in the Easter bunny and Lapin de Pacques. In the Netherlands and Germany, however, the Easter bunny is a hare. The Dutch often eat rabbit with Christmas.
Apparently, the rabbit, hare, eggs all stand for springtime, for new life, for reproduction. The rabbit comes out of its lair and jumps around, birds lay eggs, the flowers blossom. They were symbols for pagan celebrations that have been adopted by Christianity.
In France, rabbit can be on the menu all year round. In the hit parade of rabbit dishes, the rabbit with mustard (lapin à la moutarde) and rabbit with prunes (lapin aux pruneaux) fight for the popularity stakes. I combined the ingredients into a dish with prunes and a mustard/cream sauce with shallots and white wine.
Often, the rabbit parts get coated with the mustard sauce from the start and then they are cooked in a pan or in the oven. Here, I first brown the meat in butter and oil, reduce a whine/shallot sauce and then continue to cook the ingredients with the mustard sauce and prunes in the oven.
Ingredients (for two)
- Half a rabbit
- six shallots
- six prunes
- 20 cl mustard
- 20 cl cream
- 40 cl white wine
- pepper, salt
- butter, olive oil
- Cut up the rabbit in parts, set aside any innards (liver, kidney). Wash and pat dry.
- Slice the shallots.
- Put butter and olive oil in a large pan, heat and wait until the foam subsides, add rabbit and brown for 20 minutes, turning the pieces from time to time.
- Put a piece of butter in a small pan, heat and wait until the foam clears, add shallots and brown for a few minutes, then add the wine.
- Remove the rabbit from the pan, add the liver and kidneys and cook for two minutes. Remove.
- Add the wine and shallots to the larger pan and reduce to a sauce.
- Meanwhile mix the mustard and cream.
- Pour de sauce at the bottom of an oven dish, put the rabbit pieces on top and coat with the mustard/cream mix.
- Sprinkle pepper and salt over the rabbit.
- Add the prunes to the dish.
- Put in the upper part of the oven at 150 °C for 15 minutes and serve.