This Moroccan inspired dish consists of warm spices, savory tomato and sweet figs that are cooked down to create a fragrant, rich sauce. Quartered rabbits slowly braise until the meat slips off the bone. It’s served with Israeli cous cous, preserved lemons and mint to create a complex, flavored stew that is perfect for winter months.
I was very tempted to call this “top shelf rabbit,” but didn’t want anyone to think that patrón involved. This recipe is seasoned with Ras El Hanout, which in Arabic translates to “top shelf” or “head of the shop.”
Back in the day, North African merchants would use the best spices they had to create a blend with up to 50 different spices! Today’s modern version of Ras El Hanout usually consists of about 12 spices. If you have a well stocked pantry you can make the blend yourself, but it’s a lot easier to buy it pre-made from a specialty store or online.
This recipe can be made with any small game, but mine is a mix of cottontails and jackrabbits. While cous cous is a great side, basmati or chickpeas will also work just fine.
Time to make
3 cottontails, 1-2 jackrabbits, or several squirrels
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, smashed or minced
2 cups tomato sauce
3 cups poultry/blonde stock
12 dried figs, cut in half (substitute with dried apricots or dates)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. Ras El Hanout
Salt and pepper
Oil/ghee for cooking
Cous cous or flatbread to serve
Optional Garnish: mint or cilantro preserved lemons
Also works with
- Break down the rabbits or squirrels so that you have four bone-in pieces (4 legs and loin.) Pat the meat very dry and just before cooking, season with salt and pepper. Heat a large dutch oven to high heat. Add a tbsp. of cooking oil or ghee. Once hot, brown the rabbit on each side, working in batches. Remove and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium-high, add another tablespoon of oil, and pour in the chopped onions. Sauté the onions until soft and translucent, add the carrots and garlic. Cook for an additional minute and deglaze the pan with stock, scraping up fond at the bottom. Pour in the tomato sauce and add the dried figs, cinnamon stick and Ras El Hanout. Stir to mix and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Return the rabbit quarters back to the pot, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and place lid on top. Cook for about 3-4 hours total, maybe longer if using jackrabbit. During the last hour of cooking, remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken. On the alternative, add more stock if necessary.