This Moroccan-inspired dish consists of warm spices, savory tomato, and sweet figs that cook down to create a fragrant, rich sauce. Quartered rabbits slowly braise until the meat slips off the bone. I like to serve it with Israeli couscous, preserved lemons, and mint to create a complex stew that's perfect for winter months.
I season this dish with ras el hanout, which in Arabic translates to “top shelf” or “head of the shop.” Historically, North African merchants used the best spices available to create a blend with up to 50 different spices, but today's 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.
You can make this recipe with any small game. My preparation used a mix of cottontail and jackrabbit. While couscous is a great side, basmati or chickpeas will also work just fine.
- 3 cottontails, 1-2 jackrabbits, or several squirrels
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed or minced
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 3 cups poultry or 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 or ghee for cooking
- Couscous 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 leg pieces and the 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 tablespoon of cooking oil or ghee. Once the pot is 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 then 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 to 4 hours, longer if using jackrabbit. During the last hour of cooking, remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken. Add more stock if necessary.