Grilled and Braised Rabbit with Molasses, Bourbon, Slab Bacon, and Stone-ground Grits
The chef tells us that “fresh rabbit is a wonderful change from chicken, but free-range chicken could be prepared in a similar fashion. [At Highland’s] we bone the rabbit so that we have a boneless loin, a hindquarter, fore quarter, flank, and the resulting bones from the loin. The loin and liver are well suited for grilling at the last moment, for they take only a very few minutes to cook. A simple but flavorful marinade is a welcome addition. Juniper, bourbon, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil as well as molasses are flavors that come to mind.”
- Rosemary - 2 teaspoons, minced
- Parsley - 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh leaves
- Juniper berries - 2 tablespoons
- Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bourbon - 1/2 cup
- Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Stone-ground Grits
- Water - 5 cups
- Salt to taste
- Stone-ground yellow grits - 1 cup
- Butter - 3 tablespoons
- Pepper to taste
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese - 1⁄4 cup freshly grated
- Heavy Cream - 1/2 cup
- Rabbit - 2, cut into serving pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Molasses - 2 tablespoons
- Bacon - 2 thick slices, hickory or apple smoked, cut into 1⁄2-inch thick pieces
- Onion - 1, peeled and chopped
- Carrot - 1, chopped
- Celery - 1 stalk, chopped
- Thyme - Sprig, fresh
- Bay Leaves - 2
- Bourbon - 1/2 cups
- Red Wine - 2 cups
- Chicken Stock - 3-4 cups
To make the marinade: In a mortar combine the rosemary, parsley, juniper berries, garlic, salt, and pepper. Work with a pestle until the seasonings are blended. Whisk in the bourbon and oil, and transfer the mixture to a large shallow bowl. Add the rabbit pieces to the marinade and refrigerate overnight or for as long as 2 days.
To cook the grits: Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the salt, and slowly pour in the grits, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and continue to stir so the grits do not settle to the bottom and burn. In about 5 minutes, the grits will plump up and become a thick mass. Continue to cook the grits for a total of about 12 minutes, stirring frequently. The grits should have absorbed all of the water and become soft. Stir in the butter, pepper, Parmesan, and cream, and whip until combined. The grits should now have a thick consistency and be creamy like oatmeal. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
To cook the rabbit: Preheat the oven to 325 F, and prepare a grill. Season the rabbit hind and fore quarters with salt and pepper and drizzle with the molasses. In a heavy skillet fry the bacon over moderately high heat until the pieces are lightly browned. Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and reserve. Add the rabbit skin side down and brown in batches, transferring each piece to a platter. Reduce the heat and add the vegetables to the skillet. Saueé the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned.
Increase the heat to high and add the thyme, bay leaves, and bourbon. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the wine and reduce by half again. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Add the rabbit, cover, and cook in the preheated oven 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender, depending on the age of the rabbit. Remove the rabbit from the cooking liquids to a serving plate, and strain the juices through a fine mesh sieve into a medium saucepan. Set the pan with the juices over high heat, bring to a boil, and reduce by half.
Just before the cooking time is up, season the loin and liver pieces and transfer to the prepared grill. Grill the loin about 2 to 3 minutes just until browned but the meat remains pink. Add the liver and cook 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve: Arrange the grits in the center of a large serving plate. Top with the rabbit legs and shoulder. Slice the loin and liver in half, and place in the center. Scatter the bacon pieces over the meat and nap with sauce. Finish with the fresh thyme.