In Praise Of The Carbonade

It’s right around this time of year, just after I have completed all the yard work in anticipation of the first snowfall, that things go very much casserole/stew/braise-ward in our kitchen. Whilst I have been known to make such dishes throughout all seasons, it’s that crisp frisson in the late Autumnal air that has me stretching for the cast iron pots a few times a week.

By way of a celebration to commemorate the arrival of my lovely new mustard-coloured Staub oval cocotte (read: Dutch Oven), I decided to play about with the traditional Carbonade a la Flamande and introduce one of my favourite ingredients, rabbit.

This French Flemish favourite would historically be one of beef braised in Belgian ale, but last week I had the realisation last that the same method would most probably work rather deliciously with a disassembled and then carefully browned bunny.

If you’ve never cooked rabbit previously, don’t be scared, just treat it like a really lean chicken and ensure that it isn’t allowed to dry out. Dry and stringy rabbit is no fun whatsoever, in fact it is probably dry and stringy rabbit that has put some folks off eating bunnies for life… well, that and the emotional connection to cutesy, flopsy-eared pets and woodland creatures. Tasty, tasty, cutesy, flopsy-eared woodland creatures.

Naturally, a beast with this particular kind of muscle/fat ratio really lends itself to braising, and it’s this line of thinking that led to this Rabbit Carbonade adventure.

The resultant hearty supper turned out to be one for the ages, a real winner with all the family, even our little 19-month-old lad (just be careful to take out all the tiny bones before feeding to children and annoyingly picky adults).

Saying that, in my mind, there’s certainly something to be said for picking up the bits of rabbit in your hands to pick off all the last morsels of juicy meat from the small bones. It almost makes one feel as if one has upped and joined Robin Hood’s Merry Men, and I think that’s a good thing, no?

As we brace for the freezing ravages of our Canadian winter, I can see this becoming a regular menu item at Chez Drummond from here on in.

Rabbit Carbonade

After some careful seasoning through a dredge in a flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, turmeric, mustard powder mix, the rabbit pieces require a good browing in olive oil and butter over a medium-high heat.

Rabbit Carbonade

You’ll find that it’s best to do this in batches rather than all at once, leaving each piece for about six minutes each side without stirring so as you build up loads of fond (AKA tasty crusty bits) on the bottom of the pot.

Rabbit Carbonade

Remove the rabbit from the pot and set aside, covering to keep warm. Slice a few onions stem to root and cook for around 20 minutes on a lower heat. Stir after around three minutes to remove the fond from the pot’s base and mix through the onion. After five minutes add six smashed garlic cloves and six destemmed and chopped thyme leaves.

Rabbit Carbonade

Once the onions are golden and beautifully fragrant (around 20 minutes) turn up the heat to maximum and add around a cup of Belgian ale and a cup of good chicken stock… unless, of course, you happen to have rabbit stock on hand? Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for a few minutes, then add around four small sweet turnips, peeled and cubed, and return to a simmer. At this point season generously with sea salt and pepper.

Rabbit Carbonade

While it is merrily bubbling away, layer your pieces of browned rabbit on top of the turnip, reduce to a low simmer, cover, and then leave for around 50 minutes.

Rabbit Carbonade

Remove the rabbit from the pot and set aside (keeping the bits warm). With the lid removed, add two tablespoons of grain mustard and one and half teaspoons of Muscavado sugar. Turn up the heat on your pot with and reduce the liquid by 50% .

Rabbit Carbonade

Remove from heat and place the rabbit pieces back in the pot, mixing them in well with the liquid. Replace the lid and allow to rest for five minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve over pappardelle.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And damn that cast iron Staub is a lovely thing.

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