Seventeen miles later, I had everything I needed to replicate this recipe from Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune, one of my favorite restaurants here in New York City: one whole rabbit from Ottomanelli and a pint of cornichons from Fairway. I had woken up very late that Saturday, so after I decided that rabbit was going to be the night’s dinner, I biked to the butcher in the upper east side after a loop around Central Park to make up for my non-day. Ottomanelli’s unfortunately did not have cornichons, so I had to nervously cross town and go to Fairway where I knew a tub of cornichons is always available. I almost got doored on York Avenue and a turning cab cut me off on First that by the time I reached the west side, I was just glad to be alive. The adventure continued as my bike bag flew off its clipping on 125th Street and a guy in a Zip car had to tell me about it. Biking back to where my bag landed, a man helped me put it back on my bike rack. It was heavy and he just had to ask, What’s in there? I laughed and said, A rabbit.
Rabbit legs pre-ordered from a reputable butcher works best for this recipe, but if you can only get a whole rabbit, make sure it’s already been cleaned. The skin under the belly was a little gnarly even for me, so I sliced it off and cleaned off the innards that were kept intact. Chopping the whole rabbit into large pieces was easy with my new Santoku knife sent to me by Wusthof. Not only was it very sharp and made slicing through the rabbit’s tiny bones easy, its new blue handle is lighter yet still hefty for fast cutting. A row of beveled ovals on the edge of the blade prevented the meat from adhering to it and minimized the drag that most cleavers have; butterflying the front part of the body was so easy and so was separating the hind legs from the rest.
1 whole rabbit, cleaned, thawed if previously frozen, chopped in large pieces
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 pint of cornichons including brining juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 cups chicken stock, or as needed
4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
a handful of parsley, finely chopped
1. Pat the rabbit pieces dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the rabbit pieces on both sides. Transfer to a plate.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallots to the pot. Sauté until tender, but not browned, while gently scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
3. In the meantime, heat oven to 350º. When onions are tender, add the cornichons, brine and vinegar and let simmer. Return the rabbit with the accumulated juices. Add enough chicken stock so that it’s within 1/2-inch of covering the meat. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat.
4. Cover the pot and braise in the oven until the rabbit meat is tender and the leg joints bend easily, about 30 minutes. Transfer legs to a plate and keep warm. Skim cornichons and shallots from the sauce and set aside.
5. Return pot to medium-high heat, and boil until sauce is reduced by about half. Whisk in butter a piece at a time and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Return rabbit, cornichons and shallots to the pan until just reheated. Stir in parsley.
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