Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat. We know we will never convince those of who object to eating cute animals that this is a recipe you should try. If this is you, no need to read further. And we get it. Rabbit is not the most popular of meats; in fact, most members of our family refuse to even try it. However, if you are interested, or curious, about learning how to create a delicious, and very traditional Greek meal using rabbit meat…you’ve come to the right place.
Rabbit is in fact, an exceptional choice of meat. It is incredibly lean, higher in protein than either chicken or beef, and low in calories. Win, win, win! It is also a concentrated source of iron, phosphorus and potassium. As if that weren’t enough, rabbit meat also contains high quantities of the mineral selenium. This is great news because selenium is used by the body to create antioxidants, and is also helpful in sperm production. Perhaps this is part of the reason that rabbits breed like…well….rabbits.
When it comes to eating meat, consuming rabbit is also healthy for our environment. Cuniculture, the fancy way of saying rabbit farming, is not a huge part of Canadian agriculture, but Quebec and Ontario are important producers of rabbit meat for the rest of the country and the United States. There are typically no hormones used in raising rabbits, and the amount of natural resources (in terms of feed and water) that are required to raise them is minimal; much more minimal than what is required to farm cattle. Furthermore, because rabbits are quite delicate, they do not do well under stress or poor environmental conditions. This means that it is in the rabbit farmers best interest to ensure that their rabbits are well cared for.
Still, we won’t deny it; cooking and eating rabbit may take some getting used to. If you are going to buy rabbit in the grocery store, you will likely find it whole (occasionally with the head), and so it still looks like a rabbit. This can be a bit unsettling, especially if it is not a meat you are familiar with. But, before you get all squeamish and outraged, remember that a grocery store chicken still looks like a chicken too…and most of us don’t have an issue with poultry.
And speaking of chicken…rabbit is a tender, white game meat which can easily replace chicken in most recipes. Here, we share a very traditional Greek way of preparing rabbit. Stifado literally translates into stew, and this particular one stars rabbit meat and onions. Combined with tomato, spices and a few other key ingredients you end up with a meal that is sweet, savoury, rich and light all at the same time. It had actually been years since we enjoyed this meal, and when we had it again recently we were reminded that it was in fact, a favourite growing up.
We find that using half a rabbit is sufficient for a family of three or four. Because rabbit is usually sold whole, it is important to buy it fresh (not previously frozen) if you are planning to follow our recipe exactly and freeze the rest for a later date. Otherwise, double all of the ingredients listed and invite some friends over to enjoy this meal with you.
Because rabbit is sold whole, you will likely have to butcher it yourself. This can take some practice, but with some patience and a sharp knife, you should manage just fine. If you would like a step-by-step tutorial on how to butcher a rabbit, we think that this link is great. It has instructions with photos that we find very clear and helpful. Alternatively, you could always ask your butcher to do this for you.
Besides the rabbit, the other key ingredient to this stifado is the onions. Our parents use small yellow onions for this meal. They tend to be sweeter and less strongly flavoured than the regular, medium sized yellow onions. If all you can find are the more standard medium sized onions, use those, but cut them in half before adding them to the pot.
As with most recipes which use tomato sauce, our parents use their homemade sauce for this stifado; you can find the recipe here. If you don’t have homemade sauce, and have no plans for making some, you can substitute a good quality jarred tomato sauce instead.
Mia Kouppa: Rabbit Stew
- 790 grams of fresh rabbit, cut into serving size pieces (approximately 1/2 whole rabbit)
- 24 small to medium-small yellow onions (total of about 880 grams of onion)
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup (250 ml) tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
- 3/4 tablespoon salt
- 100 ml olive oil
- 200 ml water
- 1 whole cinnamon stick, cut in half
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) whole allspice
- Rinse the rabbit well and place it in a large pot
- Peel the onions; the ones which are very small, leave whole. For those which are slightly larger, score them in half, but not all the way. They should remain as one whole onion.
- Add the onions, potatoes, and garlic to the pot with the rabbit. Continue to add all of the other ingredients. Shake the pot well to distribute the liquid. Cover, and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook, covered for about 30 minutes. At this point, lift the lid enough so that some steam escapes, but that most of the pot is still covered by the lid. Shake your pot carefully ever 15 minutes or so, to prevent sticking. If it appears too dry, you can add 1/4 cup of water. Cook for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
- Serve the rabbit with the onions, potatoes and the cooking liquid. Enjoy.