Roasted Rabbit with Mustard Sauce
David Tanis | Yield: 8
David Tanis, longtime Chez Panisse chef, recommends stocking up on French mustard the next time you're overseas. He prefers its pungency in this traditional dish.
- 2 Whole Rabbits, about 2 1/2 lbs each
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 cup strong Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons mustard seeds, crushed (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
- 8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1/2 pound Ventrèche, cut into 1/4-inch-wide lardons
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Fresh sage branches
- A little white wine or chicken broth, if needed
- Cut the rabbit into 6 pieces as follows: Cut the saddle into 2 pieces. Divide the hind legs. Cut the fore section in half through the backbone, leaving the forelegs attached to the ribs.
- Season the rabbit pieces generously with salt and freshly ground pepper and put them in a large bowl. Add the mustard, mustard seeds, crème fraîche, garlic, bacon, and bay leaves. Strip the leaves from the thyme and sage branches, chop them roughly (you’ll want about 2 tablespoons of each), and add to the bowl. With your hands, smear the ingredients all over the rabbit pieces to coat evenly. Cover and let the flavors meld for an hour or two, or overnight, in the fridge.
- Bring the rabbit to room temperature, and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the rabbit pieces, along with every drop of their juicy seasoning, in two shallow, oval earthenware baking dishes just large enough to hold them.
- Bake on the middle oven rack for about 1 hour, turning the pieces as they brown. (You may remove the saddle pieces a little earlier, though, if they seem done, to keep them from overcooking. Then return at the last minute to heat through.) The rabbit should be nicely browned and the juices quite reduced. If it seems to be browning too rapidly, lay a piece of foil on top, then uncover for the last 10 minutes of cooking. If the sauce seems too reduced, splash a little white wine or chicken broth into the bottom of the baking dish, and cook for a few minutes longer.
- Bring the serving vessel to the table and serve each person according to their preference: foreleg, saddle, or hindquarter. Spoon a little sauce over each serving, if needed.