Christophe Emé's mother, Maryvonne, raised rabbits and ducks as well as chickens in their backyard. He remembers her getting up at 7 a.m. to feed them every morning before going to work, and then feeding them again when she got home. She sold most of the animals to friends, but saved a few for special occasions, to prepare rustic dishes like this succulent rabbit simmered with tomatoes, mustard and lots of onion, shallots and garlic, which cook down to make a wonderful sauce.
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Two 4-pound rabbits (see Note)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 summer savory sprigs
4 thyme sprigs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 whole garlic cloves
3 large shallots, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 large tomatoes—peeled, seeded and chopped
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
How to Make It
Cut each rabbit into 6 pieces: 2 hind legs, 2 front legs, 1 neck and 1 loin with flaps attached. Season the rabbit with salt and pepper. Press 2 savory sprigs and 2 thyme sprigs on the underside of each loin and fold the flaps over them; secure with toothpicks. Spread the mustard all over the pieces of rabbit.
In a very large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add 4 of the rabbit pieces and cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the pieces and cook over moderate heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat in 2 batches with the rest of the rabbit pieces, adding the remaining 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil to the casserole for the last batch.
Add the garlic, shallots and onion to the casserole and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add half of the wine and boil over moderately high heat, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the casserole, until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining wine. Add the tomatoes, stock and the remaining 2 savory sprigs. Nestle the rabbit pieces in the casserole and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat, turning the rabbit pieces a few times, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.
Transfer the rabbit pieces to a bowl. Boil the cooking liquid over high heat until reduced to 5 cups, about 15 minutes. Discard the savory sprigs. Add the heavy cream and boil until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Return the rabbit to the casserole and simmer for a few minutes to heat through, then serve.
The stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently, adding a little water if thick.
Rabbits are available at farmers' markets and from D'Artagnan (800-327-8246 or dartagnan.com).
Buttered noodles or steamed rice or potatoes.
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