I don’t know how many times I’ve been ridiculed for eating jackrabbit. Most people are very hesitant to cook them because they’ve been told their whole lives that these huge bunnies will give you worms or taste like shoe leather.
It is true (but rare) that you can contract tularemia from rabbits, a bacteria that results in flu-like systems. You can detect the bacteria if you find ulcers on the animal’s skin. You can also check for it by looking for white or yellow spots on the liver and meat. I have never come across tularemia. However, I always play it safe by wearing gloves when processing and I cook the meat thoroughly.
There is no better way than low and slow to cook tough meat like jackrabbit. I go until it begins to shred and fall apart. I channeled my inner Julia Child with this dish and made a variation of her classic French bourguignon recipe with jackrabbit for a hearty comfort meal.
The recipe itself is pretty simple. All you need to do is braise the rabbit with lots of aromatics, carrots and wine in a large dutch oven or pot. You can eat it right out of the pot or refine the dish by removing the meat from the stew, straining the solids out from the braising liquid and reducing it to a rich sauce. At the end, add roasted pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots for added depth of flavor and texture.
Time to make
2 jackrabbits, silver-skin removed, broken down into 5 pieces (front and hind quarters, plus saddle)
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large leek, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tbsp. flour
2½ cups of full bodied red wine
2½ cups of venison or beef stock
2 bay leaves
A handful of fresh thyme
1 tbsp. duck fat/oil for cooking
8 oz. of mushrooms, chopped in half or quarters if large
2 cups pearl onions, fresh or frozen
Salt and pepper
Splash of sherry vinegar (substitute with red wine vinegar)
Bread for serving
Also works with
Venison shanks, goose thighs
- Add a tablespoon of duck fat or oil to a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the jackrabbit and brown it on both sides. Remove and set aside.
- Add onions to the pot and sauté for a few minutes or until they begin to caramelize, then add the leeks, carrots and celery. Cook for a few more minutes and then add the garlic. Add tomato paste and flour, stirring to combine.
- Return the jackrabbit to the pot and add the liquids, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 4 hours or until the meat becomes fork tender but not shredding apart. If the liquids run low, add a little more stock to the pot.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Season the mushrooms and pearl onions with salt, pepper, a splash of sherry vinegar and coat with olive oil. Spread across a large sheet pan and roast for 20 to 30 minutes until browned.
- While the mushrooms and pearl onions are roasting, use tongs to remove the jackrabbit from the stock pot and reserve. Strain all of the solids from the liquids and pour the sauce back in to the stock pot. Return the meat and keep on low heat, allowing it to simmer gently and continue to cook down for another 30 minutes. The liquids should be velvety rich and the meat should be falling apart. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve the rabbit with the roasted mushrooms, pearl onions, extra thyme and bread. You can also roast extra carrots or fingerling potatoes at this time.
If you have the time, season the jackrabbit with a sprinkle of kosher salt up to 24 hours before cooking.
Keep the rabbit meat in large serving pieces instead of chopping it into small chunks. This makes it much easier to fish it out when you strain the broth.
If you are using frozen pearl onions, be sure to let them totally defrost and pat them completely dry before roasting. If you are using fresh pearl onions, blanch them in a pot of boiling water for about a minute and then shock in cold water. This will make it easier to remove their skins.