Rabbit Stew with Dumplings: Burwell General Store Recipe Swappers for September, 2011

By on September 3, 2011

Christiana and the Burwell General Store Recipe Swappers have come up with a dandy recipe from the 100 year old cookbook “All Day and Dinner on the Grass” for a rabbit stew.  As usual,  our assignment,  should we choose to accept it, is to write our own version of a rabbit stew.

All recipes of this sort must begin with Mrs. Beeton’s instruction:  “First you find your rabbit.”

Yes, you may have one in a pen in the backyard,  or you may have access to wild rabbits that somebody has dispatched.  Although there is some risk to cooking wild rabbits.  They can come with some rather nasty parasites they wouldn’t mind foisting off on you.  You can buy frozen rabbit from China if you have access to Asian grocery stores, and have the nerve to buy such an unknown quantity.

Or you can buy a rabbit from a reliable store.  For me it’s King’s in Maplewood, New Jersey, and they get their rabbit from D’artagnan.  Where you can also buy rabbit directly, and on line. http://www.dartagnan.com/565641/products/Bone–In-Natural-Rabbit-Saddle.html.  D’artagnan has a nice selection of rabbit recipes as well.

And in a complete pinch,  you can make this recipe with a good stewing hen.  Still tastes terrific.

But today, I’m going with an old fashioned recipe I first tried when I went with a dozen foodies to La Varenne,  Anne Willan’s cooking school and chateau in Burgundy.  We stayed for a week, and every night a team cooked for the whole group.

All week, we kept driving by a farm which had a little hand made sign by the side of the road that said, simply “lapin”.

My daughter, Katherine DeFoyd, and her husband, Gordon Murray, and I decided we would indeed choose lapin, which is French for Rabbit as our meal to cook.  So we turned in the lane and soon came to a small building that was the farm store.  We explained in our terrible Fractured French that we needed enough rabbit to feed 12 people.

Madame stayed with us and fed us little bites of various kinds of rabbit sausages, while her husband left the building. In her fractured English, which amounted to a lot of pointing and winking, she explained to us how she cooked rabbit.  She also sold bacon, so we bought some of that.  She pointed to a bottle of burgundy, made clink-clink noises and we got that part of the recipe.  Then, quick as a wink, her husband returned with about 6 rabbits, all skinned and pearly pink.  They had one curious feature, and that was the rabbit’s foot, complete with fur and toenails was intact on one hind foot.  Hmmm. We wondered.

He laid them out on the counter for us to examine.

But we said, oui, we’d take them, so the husband expertly placed them in a clear plastic bag and handed it to me, pointing and grimacing and saying I should put them into the refrigerator the moment we got back to our own kitchen.

About that time, I put my hand on the bottom of the bag and realized the rabbits were still warm.  Good god.  He had gone to the pens, picked out the creatures, killed and dressed them, all while madame was entertaining us with bites of sausage.  The recipe she explained was basically what I am presenting here.

And when we got back to our chateau, someone explained why the rabbits came with their own lucky rabbit’s foot.  It seems in the past, when the French have gone through periods of real hunger,  some butchers might try to foist off a skinned cat onto the unsuspecting house wife, because, it is said, they look about the same, when skinned.  Except,  of course, for that foot.

So the next time you see a lucky rabbit’s foot.  Remember where it got the luck.

Rabbit Stew in a Red Wine Sauce.  Dumplings on the top is what my grandmother did.  That is an added fillip you can choose to do, or not.




The process is leisurely.  Sizzle bacon and olive oil together while you chop the onions, shallots and garlic.  Slice the cepes, or brown mushrooms, adding them to the pot as you go.  Then you remove them,  add more olive oil as needed and brown the rabbit pieces.



It is very important to remove the bacon and onions while you are browning the rabbit so they don’t overcook.  As I say, this is a leisurely practice. Take your time.  Enjoy the aromas that waft up your nose.  It’s worth it.



While the rabbit is browning in the pan, cut up the potatoes. I used yellow fins that I grew in my own garden.  Now that is satisfying, I tell you.  Buy yourself grow bags next spring and plant some potatoes.  You’ll be so glad.



Once the rabbit is tender and the stew completely made,  remove the meat to a plate, cover with the pot lid, and prepare to make the dumplings.

Or not.  this is purely optional.  But a well made dumpling makes a fine finish for this stew.



The dumplings cook in about 10 minutes,  then you can transfer the stew and the dumplings to a serving bowl and serve.  Yum.



Rabbit Stew with Dumplings in a Red Wine Sauce

makes 6 to 8 servings

1 2-1/2 pound rabbit,  quartered

1/4 cup all purpose flour

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

3 slices thick bacon,  cut into large pieces

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped

2 shallots,  peeled and chopped

8 ounces porcini or brown mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced thick

1 cup beef broth OR broth made from Better than Gourmet brand veal stock, known as demi glace gold. (the best)

2 cups dark red wine, like a good Malbec, or Burgundy

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley

2 bay leaves

Dust rabbit pieces with salt, pepper and flour.  Set aside.

In a Dutch oven, over medium high heat,  cook bacon and oil until the bacon is begining to firm up.  Add chopped onions, shallots and finally garlic and mushrooms.  Cook just until the onions are transluscent.  Transfer these to a plate and set aside.

Brown the rabbit pieces,  add more olive oil as needed, turning them to get them nice and golden on both sides.

Meanwhile, mix broth, wine, brown sugar and tomato paste.  Stir into the pot.  Add back the onion mixture and top with fresh herbs.  Cover the pan and cook at a simmer – medium low – until the rabbit is tender.  About 45 minutes.

If you’re making the dumplings,  remove the meat to a serving dish and cover.

Parsley Dumplings

1 cup all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon organic white sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon soft butter

1/2 cup whole milk

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a small bowl.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Stir in milk and using a fork, make s fot dough.

Drop by the teaspoon full into the simmering stew.  Cover and simmer until just done, from 10 to 15 minutes. Take care not to overcook.

Transfer the dumplings to the serving bowl alongside the rabbit pieces.

Carefully pour the stew into the serving bowl,  dust the top with fresh parsley and serve.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”


  1. el

    September 3, 2011 at 11:00 pm


  2. Boulder Locavore

    September 4, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Linda I must admit being both intrigued and a bit horrified by the story! So frighteningly interesting about the rabbit’s foot. I think rabbit is not a mainstream meat in the U.S. and our obsession with soft furry things does not help advance the mission either. Stuffed rabbits, cartoon rabbits, Easter Bunny, etc. Separates us far from ordering lapin on the menu!

    We are finally enjoying some cool weather, hopefully signaling fall is on its way. Perfect weather to imagine a stew like yours in the future!

  3. alex

    September 4, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    great job. I hope to someday be brave like you and cook with rabbit!

  4. Barbara | Creative Culinary

    September 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I agree with Toni so I ‘chickened’ out but I do relate rabbit to a pet bunny so knew I would go that route. That being said…I just did goat for the first time recently and realize that our being unfamiliar with eating a particular dish can make for a huge leap to that first taste. We don’t give a second thought to cows or chickens as part of our diet but we (or Walt Disney maybe?) have made rabbits and goats seemingly off limits to our palate.

    I love D’artagnan though only available to me through mail order; aren’t they wonderful?

  5. Alli

    September 6, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Oh my goodness that is so interesting about the rabbit foot! And it must have been unsettling that they were still warm in the bag…I feel lucky mine had been in the fridge for awhile. The combination of bacon and dumplings in your recipe is such a nice complement to the rabbit!

  6. Burwell General Store

    September 6, 2011 at 12:29 am


    Wow!! Thanks as always, for rolling up your sleeves and posting. I always love reading your posts. I heart D’Artagnan, too. 🙂

  7. Lindsay @ Rosemarried

    September 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Gosh, you learn something new every day. I had no idea about that rabbit’s foot (and butcher’s trying to pawn off cat as rabbit! ew!). So glad you were brave enough to attempt the rabbit. Looks delish!

  8. Anonymous

    September 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Your trip to La Varenne sound so much fun. Thanks for sharing the story behind the recipe and also about the rabbit foot. You are brave – I think I would have wimped out and not cooked the rabbit- but then they were already dead- so guess you couldn’t let their death go in vain!

  9. Shumaila

    September 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Your trip to La Varenne sound so much fun. Thanks for sharing the story behind the recipe and also about the rabbit foot. You are brave – I think I would have wimped out and not cooked the rabbit- but then they were already dead- so guess you couldn’t let their death go in vain!