Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.
Today: We're learning all about rabbit: the newest supermeat, and your gateway to home butchery.
Shop the Story
In case you didn’t already know, rabbit is the new supermeat. Because they are herbivores and don’t require grains or soy for fattening, rabbits are inexpensive to raise and have a low impact on the environment. They also reproduce like, well, rabbits, which means that they can be raised and processed quickly.
In addition to being an environmentally sound meat option, rabbits are absolutely delicious. They have a mild flavor similar to chicken but with slightly more depth, and, when cooked properly, they're unbelievably tender and juicy. Like any four-legged animal, the shoulders and legs of the rabbit work the hardest -- this means they'll be be tougher and leaner than the loin, but also more flavorful. The legs are the meatiest part of the rabbit, and are a popular choice for a confit or slow braise. Rabbit shoulders are often braised for traditional ragouts and eaten bones and all, and the loin is delicious roasted or grilled. Because rabbits are so small, you can even cook them whole.
Rabbits are also a great introduction to home butchering, since they’re a manageable size and can easily be broken down with nothing more than a large knife. Grab the sharpest one in your knife block, then follow along -- you'll be a butchering expert before you know it.
Here's How to Break Down a Rabbit:
First: Unwrap your rabbit and lay it on its back. Grasp one of the hind legs and cut along the seam of fat where the leg meets the body until the leg releases. Do the same with the other hind leg.
Next: Grab the front legs and place your knife right underneath them, perpendicular to the body. Slice until the legs separate from the rest of the body. Remove the neck if it's still attached, and cut off the tailbone from the loin.
Lastly: Split the hind legs right down the middle by placing your knife along the spine, and pressing down forcefully. If you wish, remove the ribs from the loin by cutting between the second and third rib bones (on the tail end of the rib plate) until the saddle flaps are released. Do this on both sides. (We skipped this step, and simply left our loin whole.)
Now that you have your rabbit in manageable pieces, go forth and braise, sauté, or grill them to your liking! See if you're a convert to the newest supermeat.
Have you cooked a rabbit before? What's your favorite way to prepare it?
Photo of rabbit porchetta by Alex Farnum, all other photos by James Ransom.
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog, Yummy-Books.com, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.