Roasted Rabbit with Shallot Rosemary Crust
If you haven’t cooked rabbit, I recommend you give it a try. The flavor is more delicate than you might expect. This recipe is simple to prepare and cooks quickly on the grill. The whole meal (with roasted carrots and radishes) takes just an hour to prepare.
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh shallot (about 1/2 of a large shallot)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- Finely grated zest from 2 Meyer lemons (reserve the lemons for the roasted carrots and radishes)
- 1 whole rabbit, head and feet removed, about 2.75 pounds
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly-cracked black pepper
Combine the shallot, olive oil, rosemary and lemon zest in a small bowl. Reserve as the flavors combine.
Break down the rabbit into six pieces; the four legs and the two loins with belly meat. Most recipes call for a rabbit to be cut into eight pieces, but I prefer six for this size rabbit. Saveur magazine has a helpful pictorial for the eight-piece method here. For six pieces, proceed as follows:
- Find the shoulder blade above/behind one of the front legs. Push it forward and away from the rib cage, and slice behind it with a boning knife. Keep slicing through to remove the leg with as much of the shoulder meat as possible. You may encounter a tendon that needs to be cut, but you should not have to cut through bone. Repeat to remove the other front leg.
- Lay the rabbit on its back and spread the hind legs. Press down on both thighs to flatten them against the cutting board and open up the hip joint. Slice from the front of the thigh where it joins the body down through the joint to separate the thigh from the tail bone. Repeat to remove the other hind leg.
- Find the second rib from the tail. Use sharp poultry shears to cut between the second and third pairs of ribs and the spine. You can save the front rib section and spine to use for stock, or discard it.
- Use sharp poultry shears to cut out the spine on the remaining section of rabbit. Start at the front and cut as close along the side of the spine as possible until you reach the pelvis. Cut around the pelvis. Repeat on the other side to remove the spine and the pelvis. Use these for stock or discard. When removing the spine, take care to preserve as much of the loin meat as possible on each side.
- Use a boning knife or paring knife to remove the remaining pair of ribs, and use needle nosed pliers to remove the small bones from the spine that are along the edges of the loins. The two loins and attached belly meat should be entirely deboned. Wrap the belly meat around each loin for even cooking.
Season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Spoon on the shallot mixture and pat onto the meat with your fingers. Let rest while you start the grill.
Prepare the grill for roasting with an indirect fire at 500°F.
Place the rear legs on the hottest part of the indirect zone (typically toward the rear of the grill and closest to the fire) with the meatiest part toward the fire. Place the front legs in a cooler area of the indirect zone, again with the meatiest portion toward the fire. (Note. If you are also roasting the carrots and radishes from this issue, place them in the indirect zone at this time as well.) Close the hood of the grill and set a timer for 20 minutes. After 4 minutes, add the two loin pieces to the indirect zone. Close the hood and continue roasting. After an additional 4 minutes, turn all six pieces of meat over. Close the hood and continue roasting for the remainder of the 20 minutes.
Check each piece for doneness and for an appealing amount of browning. Rabbit should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Any pieces that could use a little more cooking or additional browning can be finished on the direct grilling zone.
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