Tender saddles of rabbit, bathed in bright-flavored mustard and tarragon sauce is both at “at home” meal as well as festive. I’ve lightened up and modernized this bistro classic, one that deserves its place at everyone’s table. Note that generally, rabbit has the same cooking time as chicken.
Toothpicks or butcher’s twine; a large skillet with a lid; a 10-quart (10 l) pasta pot fitted with a colander; 4 warmed dinner plates.
4 very thin slices pancetta or bacon
4 saddles of rabbit, each about 5 ounces (150 g)
Fine sea salt Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
1/2 cup (125 ml) French mustard
1 2/3 cups (410 ml) light cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup (20 g) minced fresh tarragon leaves
8 ounces (250 g) dried Italian tagliatelle pasta
1. Wrap a slice of pancetta or bacon around each saddle of rabbit and secure it with a toothpick or butcher’s twine. Season generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Brown the rabbit on all sides until well seared, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the rabbit to a platter. Wipe out the skillet.
2. Pour the wine into the skillet. Bring the wine to a boil and boil for 3 minutes to burn off the harshness of the alcohol. Add the mustard, cream, and half of the minced tarragon. Cover, bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Return the rabbit to the sauce, cover the skillet, and simmer for 15 minutes. The rabbit should be moist, tender, and cooked through.
3. Transfer the rabbit to a platter. Remove and discard the toothpicks or twine. Tent the rabbit lightly with foil.
4. Meanwhile, bring 8 quarts (8 l) of water to a boil in the pasta pot. Add 3 tablespoons of fine sea salt to the water, add the pasta and cook just until firm to the bite. Drain the pasta.
5. Add the pasta to the sauce, toss to coat the pasta, cover, and let sit for 2 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Transfer the pasta with a bit of sauce to the warmed dinner plates. Arrange a piece of rabbit alongside and spoon more sauce over the rabbit. Garnish with the remaining tarragon.
I enjoy this with a southern Rhône white, the Côtes-du-Rhône Bouquet des Garrigues from domaine le Clos du Caillou. It’s sturdy enough to stand up to the mustard and tarragon but likes the tender meat of rabbit and chicken.
A fresh, newly opened jar of imported French mustard. Freshness is the secret here. A favorite brand is Edmond Fallot, from the town of Beaune.
This is also delicious prepared with two skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Omit the pancetta, or grill or pan-fry it separately. Slice the breasts on the diagonal. Prepare the sauce, brown the breasts in a pan and then add the poultry to sauce and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Garnish with the crumbled cooked pancetta.
This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.