There’s a rabbit farm in the area that stocks a freezer at my neighborhood farmers’ market. It’s called Ardeng Rabbit Meat, and they’re out of Fountain Inn, SC. They sell cleaned, sectioned rabbits, and cleaned, whole rabbits. You can get a 5-pounder for under $23. That compares pretty well to beef prices.
Rabbit meat is incredibly lean without being particularly tough. It’s commonly compared to white chicken meat, but I think it’s more like a cross between chicken thighs and veal. It’s lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than chicken, while packing more high quality protein per ounce. It’s about the closest thing you can get to a truly nutritious meat that’s both easy to cook and relatively cheap to buy.
The wife is a squeamish eater. She suffers from the first-world problem of disliking bones in her meat. As a result, I usually have to debone whatever we roast after the initial meal. She even has issues with big bones like BBQ ribs, but I refuse to kowtow to that objection. To her, all meat comes boneless from an innocuous foam tray at the grocery store. You can only imagine her reaction when I told her that I wanted to cook Thumper. Still, she humored me and handled the situation with aplomb, which is the best you can expect from someone who had a pet rabbit for most of her childhood.
My rabbit weighed 2½ pounds. I followed this technique to debone the entire thing while leaving the body largely intact.
Once the rabbit was cleaned of all bones, I flattened the meat to a uniform thickness. Next, I seasoned it with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. The salt tenderizes and seasons the meat.
Next, I layered some thinly-sliced prosciutto to make an exterior wrap. Then I added freshly roasted red peppers and some basil leaves from the plant on my front porch.
Finally, I rolled the whole thing into a roast, kind of like a bunny braciola, and secured it with kitchen twine.
In a perfect world, I would heat a heavy cast-iron pan on the stove and sear the rabbit on all sides before finishing it in the oven. But since the ventilation in my kitchen leaves something to be desired, and it’s getting too hot to open all of the windows in the house, I decided to just roast it in the oven, prolonging the cooking process and risking dry meat. I put a baking pan in a 350° oven as it preheated. When the pan was hot, I added the roast. Every 8 minutes, I rolled the roast a quarter-turn on its side. It took about 30 minutes to reach 155°. I took it out and let it rest for about ten minutes.
The meat in this roast turned out a little oily and bland, just like chicken thighs. Next time, I’ll braise the meat in a sauce to keep it tender and add a little flavor. Still, this was a fun experiment, and I’ll try rabbit again.