When I saw the rabbit in my local market’s freezer, I knew it was time to take the plunge and cook a bunny for dinner. I wanted a simple recipe that would highlight the flavor of the meat without obscuring it with a highly seasoned sauce, so I chose this preparation from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast.
I needed dried fennel, which Henderson assured me could “be obtained from good food shops,” but I had no luck finding any. I made my own by buying a few bulbs of exceptionally frond-y fennel and drying the stalks in my dehydrator.
While the fennel dried, I thawed out Mr. Bunny, a large-ish five pound specimen.
I rubbed the rabbit inside and out with olive oil, seasoned with salt an pepper, and filled the cavity with some of the dried fennel. The rest of the stalks were supposed to be wrapped “from end to end and tummy to back (so it starts to look like a scene from The Wicker Man).” I laid out enough overlapping strips of bacon to span the length of the rabbit, then laid half of the remaining fennel across the lower half.
With the strains of “Sumer Is Icumen In” rolling around in my head, I laid the rabbit across the fennel, placed the rest on top of the rabbit, and then folded the bacon over the top. I placed the bunny bundle in a roasting pan, added two quarts of chicken stock, a cup of white wine, and four whole heads of garlic.
I set the pan in a 375 °F oven for an hour and a half. After a while, the entire house began to smell of bacon and fennel. He Who Will Not Be Ignored asked why I was singing “we’re gonna have roast rabbit!” – I obviously need to expand the boy’s cultural horizons. The rabbit was ready when the bacon had gone all crispy and the thighs were tender when tested with a knife.
While the rabbit rested, I made a sauce from some of the cooking liquid and the roasted garlic (squeezed out of the heads and passed through a strainer to make a paste). I peeled back the bacon layer, removed the now inedible fennel, and separated the rabbit into front and back legs and three saddle sections.
I plated rabbit sections on top of the crispy bacon, added a splash of the sauce, and served with sautéed hen of the woods mushrooms and braised carrots and fennel, as seen at the top of the post.
The meat was perfectly cooked, moist from the braising liquid and the protective coating of bacon. It had a subtle gamy flavor along with a hint of anise perfume from the fennel. My section of saddle still had the kidneys attached, an extra bonus I shared with She Who Must Be Obeyed. This was my favorite kind of dinner: a lot of flavor for very little work. And now that both He and She Who have given their approval, rabbit may show up more often on the Chez Belm menu.