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Rabbit with Wild Herbs (Lapin aux Herbes de la Garrigue)

Rabbit with Wild Herbs (Lapin aux Herbes de la Garrigue)
The garrigue is the sparse scrubland that covers the undulating foothills, including those at the base of the Lubéron mountain range, in the lower Alps. Ideal hunting territory, the garrigue is at once great shooting grounds for rabbits and a source of wild herbs, such as thyme, savory, rosemary and lavender.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large rabbit, about 3 1/2 lb.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 large fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 English cucumbers, peeled if desired
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 20 small white onions, each 1 inch in diameter
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Place the rabbit, belly side down, on a cutting board. Run a sharp knife around the outline of each leg, slice away from the tail area of the carcass, then remove the legs. Using a cleaver or heavy knife, sever the front legs from the saddle (loin) section. Cut the saddle crosswise into 3 pieces, then the large back legs into 2 pieces each. Cut off and discard the small triangle containing the tail. You should have 9 pieces plus the ribcage area, which you may use or discard.

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the rabbit pieces and brown well on all sides, about 15 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and add the thyme, rosemary and sage. Toss to disperse evenly, then add the wine and 1 cup of the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently, turning the rabbit pieces once, until tender when pierced with a knife, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, halve the cucumbers lengthwise and remove any seeds. Cut each half lengthwise into thirds. Then, using a small knife, shape uniform long, oval pieces from the fleshy part, forming them as neatly as possible.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar and cook until it starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add the onions and sauté, tossing, until they turn brown, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup water, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions are almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cucumber ovals, re-cover and continue cooking until both vegetables are tender and the water is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes more.

Meanwhile, fill a small saucepan three-fourths full of water, add the garlic cloves and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and press through a sieve set over a small bowl to puree the cloves.

When the rabbit is ready, using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Add the crème fraîche, the onions and cucumbers, and the garlic puree to the pan, increase the heat to high and boil down to a sauce consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Return the rabbit pieces to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Add the parsley, mix well and transfer to a warmed platter. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Provence, by Diane Holuigue (Time-Life Books, 2002).