This Provencal rabbit stew uses strong and salty flavorings such as mustard, olives and capers. It makes a good and easy substitute for dinner-party chicken or beef stew. If you cook it the day before you will give yourself a break and also be able to present a better-tasting dish-stews mature overnight in the fridge. It’s worth cooking mashed potatoes mixed with parsnips to accompany rabbit stew as they make a perfect combination of tastes.
3 rabbits (about 1.5 kg each)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if necessary for cooking vegetables
50g flour, plus additional if necassary
50ml Dijon mustard
450g coarsely chopped onions
225g coarsely chopped carrots
225ml white wine
1 sprig of thyme
1 bal leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A few pints chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
450g fresh plum tomatoes
350g brine-cured green olives
50g finely chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Cut the rabbits in 6 pieces each (the meaty hind legs, the bonier forelegs, plus the center loin, called rable in French, cut in two). Or have your butcher do it for you. In an ovenproof omelette pan wide enough to hold the rabbit pieces in one layer, add the olive oil and place over moderate heat. (If you don’t have a pan big enough, you can use 2 and divide the ingredients.)
Put four in a flat dish. Brush the rabbit pieces with mustard and then dip into the flour, shaking off any excess. Add the rabbit pieces to the hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove rabbit from the pan and set aside.
Add the onions and carrots to the pan (or pans) and cook over moderately high heat until onions are lightly browned. (You may need to add 1 teaspoon of olive oil if the pan is too dry.) Sprinkle the leftover flour if there is any into the pan and stir well to blend with onions. Deglaze the pan with the white wine over high heat and mix well. Add the thyme, bay leaf, tomato paste and garlic and mix well.
Return the rabbit to the pan. Add enough chicken stock to cover the meat and vegetables by 2.5 cm, Bring to boil and add the salt. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is just cooked enough to start falling from the bone.
While the rabbit is cooking, bring a small pot of water to boil. Remove the stems from the tomatoes with the tip of a small knife. Make a small crisscross on the other side of the tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds, or until skin begins to pull away. Refresh under cold water and remove the peel. Cut in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Chop coarsely and reserve until needed. Rinse the olives in cold water. Reserve.
When the rabbit is ready, carefully remove the pieces from the pan and set aside. Strain the sauce through a colander. Discard the vegetables and herbs.
Return the sauce to the pan and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until it is reduced by about half. Thicken with flour, if desired.
When the sauce is ready, check the seasoning. Add the pieces of rabbit back to warm. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve right from the pan, on a platter, or divided among six individual dinner plates.