was in the front yard when my buddy Thumper drove by
slowly. He tossed something out his window at me.
“I'll see you tonight,” he hollered, speeding away,
as I held out my hands to catch the flying package.
It was a dressed and frozen rabbit, which I placed,
still wrapped in plastic, in a big bowl of hot water
to thaw. I had all day to decide what to do with it.
The rabbit came from Dynah and Bob's homestead. It's
not often these days you can say the word “homestead” and
really mean it, but they are the real deal. Off the grid,
living off the land, they remain connected to their regional
human community. “We raise our own livestock,” says Bob, “and
we raise a little more to sell.” They also sell goat
cheese, eggs, pelts, pigs and cows. Their solar array
doesn't have enough juice to run a freezer, so their
meat lives in the freezers of friends. “We like to visit
our meat” says Bob.
At a fancy restaurant, I recently saw rabbit on a menu,
roasted with tarragon and rosemary. I was struck by how
this preparation resembled the way one might serve chicken.
Indeed, the chicken comparison surpasses only the rabbit's
porn-star-status mating capacity in the annals of rabbit
But why, I wondered, would a rabbit taste like a chicken? A rabbit is a mammal,
like a cow, or my cousin Brian. A chicken is a bird. Bob doesn't ask why.
“Rabbit's a little drier,” he says, “not as fatty. But
you can do anything to rabbit that you would to chicken.
We always have some rabbit stock simmering on the wood
Back in the modern world, I scoured the internet in
search of interesting ways to cook rabbit. The best site
I found was http://diju.tripod.com/Rabbit/recipes.html,
where I was tempted to try “Beer-Butt Rabbit,” in which
open cans of beer are stuffed with chopped garlic and
onions, and the rabbit, rubbed in spices, is draped over
the beer cans on a grill. But I had only three cans of
Pabst left, and I didn't want to split the last one with
Another recipe read “Grill for two hours, or until legs
and wings wiggle freely.”
Was that a Freudian slip, or are the front limbs of
rabbits really called “wings?” It reminded me of when
Goose, my boy cat, was hit by a car. I took Goose to
the vet. Before announcing that Goose would live, the
vet noted, “She's bleeding out of her penis.” Cats are
girls. Dogs are boys. Rabbits are birds.
I settled on a recipe for braised rabbit with prunes.
If you want the recipe exactly as it appeared, you can
find it on that web page. I modified it in a few key
ways, substituting breadcrumbs for flour, adding whole
garlic cloves, and most importantly, I swapped fresh
plums for prunes.
Plums! Now is the season, and my little tree is finally
producing fruit. How could I go to the store and get
dried plums (aka prunes) when plums hang ripe on the
tree? OK, technically, plums and prunes are not exactly
the same. Prunes are a type of plum that is usually dried.
But I'm not here to split hairs; just rabbits.
I cut off the arms and legs, which really did resemble
wings, drumsticks and thighs. I sliced across the long
torso, through the vertebrae, until I had manageable
chunks. I treated the liver and heart like everything
else. First, IA0seasoned the meat with salt and pepper
and dredged it in breadcrumbs. In a large cast-iron skillet,
I melted four tablespoons of butter on medium heat and
slowly browned the rabbit parts. Once everything was
brown and crispy, I placed it all in a big cast-iron
pot and added two cups of chicken stock. Then I added
two pounds of fresh, split and pitted plums (more plums
would be fine). Finally I added the whole cloves of a
head of garlic, and another BD cup of breadcrumbs. I
stirred it all together and baked it with the lid on,
stirring occasionally, at 375 for about 2 1/2 hours,
or until the rabbit was falling-off-the-bone tender.
Thumper came over with a container of fresh feta cheese
from Bob and Dynah's homestead. We made a salad while
the rabbit cooled to an edible temperature.
It was an Atkins evening of rabbit and salad vinaigrette,
which complemented each other beautifully. All the ills
of the world were temporarily relieved as we feasted
on an entirely local meal. The best part was the liver,
drenched in plum sauce.
Thus began my exploration of the plum. The next day
I marinated salmon in soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Meanwhile,
I cooked some chopped bacon and fresh plums and a little
cider vinegar. When the plums dissolved, I added the
salmon and the marinade to the pan, and fried it home.
Ooo la la.
Yes, the plum and the rabbit have taught me plenty.
But there is so much more to know. If anyone ever tries
Beer-Butt rabbit – or chicken – please tell me what happens!