Before I begin, let me say that I love Thumper as much as anyone. My memories of him frolicking with Bambi in the grass are very vivid. So let me assure you that I understand why many of you are wary of wary of the Hare. However, rabbits have been considered a viable protein source all over the world for centuries. One might even call rabbit Europe’s “other white meat.” So, today, I ask you to set your visions of the Easter Bunny and talking rabbits aside as we give credence to this wine friendly, versatile meat.
Let’s begin with some Rabbit Food History.
According to Rabbit records, our consumption of the hare dates at least as far back as the Phoenicians (3,000 B.C.), whose sailors discovered rabbits.
The Romans later used rabbit meat to feed their soldiers, and even developed enclosed wall areas called “leporaria” to keep wild rabbits ready for eating. In the Middle Ages, Monks kept “leporaria” and began breeding for weight, color and even flavor profile. By the 16th century King Henry VIII took to hunting them for sport (yes, he was a little nuts). And his daughter Queen Elizabeth kept “rabbit islands” where the little critters could run free and flourish. This is actually how Coney Island got its name: the Dutch named the island “Conyne Eylandt” which translates to “rabbit island.”
There are still rabbit islands today, but most rabbits in this country are bred for pets. Which takes us back to our original topic – rabbits as food.
One common misconception is that rabbit tastes like chicken. Well, it doesn’t–it tastes like rabbit! Rabbit is considered a “game” meat and offers a savory, softer flavor profile than chicken. It is low in fat and can be chopped, fried, diced, sliced… prepared any way your hopping heart desires. Rabbit is a white meat and well suited for spring, summer, autumn, or even winter. Because of this versatility it pairs well with many red and white wines.
For example, let’s take a look at Chef Daniel’s rabbit and pear dish.
Chef marinates his rabbit in a flavorful mixture of salt, pepper, garlic, and calvados. The seasoned pieces are sauteed and served with pear, rutabaga, and turnips. What a scrumptious combo! In order to pair wine with this dish, I look at the most dominant components: garlic, its fried preparation, salt, and pear.
In order to stand up to the garlic and the fried preparation, we must choose a wine with enough acid to “cut through” these qualities. Also, we need a wine that will neither accentuate the salt nor overpower the delicate flavors of the pear.
Reds: Oregon/ French Pinot Noir or a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape from the Rhone Valley
Whites: Alsatian Riesling or a white Rhone such as Marsanne or Rousanne
All of these wines are known for their vibrant fruit flavors yet have enough of a backbone (acid) to stand up to the garlic and fried preparation.
So, there you have it. Prepare Chef Daniel’s Rabbit and Pear dish, choose a wine and remember that food and wine is best when shared!