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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lapin and Lièvre – Rabbits and Hares. Rabbit and Hares in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Updated January 2018.
Farmed European Rabbit

Rabbit and hare have always been popular in French cuisine and will be on many French restaurant menus. Rabbit is tasty, inexpensive, and an easy to cook food, and until some sixty plus years ago rabbit was also a British and North American staple.  During WWII British families raised rabbits for food in their back gardens.
The rabbit on your French menu will have been farm bred for the cooking pot. There are many types of rabbits in Europe, but those that are raised for food will have developed from the wild European rabbit. Rabbits are classified with chicken for their ease of preparation in the kitchen and will be on many bistro menus as a comfort food.

Stuffed saddle with spinach,
Sauteed artichokes, carrots, and ragout of rabbit kidney.
(The saddle is the meatiest part of a rabbit).
Farmed rabbit will be on the menu all year round, and over the Easter weekend rabbit is a traditional family dish. Wild rabbit, lapin de garenne, will be on some menus during the hunting season.
Rabbit on French menus:

Ballottine de Lapin et Morilles – Boned rabbit stuffed with wild morel mushrooms.

Lapin à la Kriek –  Rabbit cooked in a Belgian, cherry flavored, beer. Kriek is the Flemish name for a popular sour red cherry.
Saddle of rabbit at Per Se, New York.
Lapin En Hure – Rabbit cooked with herbs and vegetables and served de-boned in aspic.  The way this dish is served depends on the chef.  Small portions may be offered as an entrée; a larger serving may come with a sauce ravigote as the main course.  Sauce Ravigote is a thick vinaigrette sauce made with mustard, eggs, olive oil and herbs.

Lapin en Paquets - Rabbit in packets.  This is a popular Provençal dish of rabbit cooked in small pieces wrapped in bacon, flavored with garlic and served with tomatoes and sweet peppers.
Braised rabbit with gnocchi
Râble de Lapin Farci de Figues –  Roast saddle of rabbit stuffed with figs. The saddle is the center of the back and the meatiest part of a rabbit or hare. 

Salade de Foies de Lapin’s Grillés, Vinaigrette à la Framboise – A salad of grilled rabbit liver served with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Rabbit does not taste like chicken; it has a stronger taste with very tender meat. Rabbit has more protein than chicken, beef, veal a or pork, and less cholesterol than chicken, turkey, beef or pork

Lapin Charentais des Mille Vents, Label Rouge – This is one of the six highest quality, farm-raised rabbits in France. This rabbit and another five others hold the label rouge, the red label, for consistent quality and a high standard of animal husbandry. This farm-raised rabbit comes from the part of Poitou-Charentes now included in the super-region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.

Rabbits have been farm-raised for food since the 15th century and only came to be considered as a pet in the 19th century, and those are different breeds.
According to Dictionary. Com, the word rabbit, came to English from old-French. That indicates that it came to England from 1066 and onwards. From 1066 with the invasion of William the Conqueror most of the British court spoke French, and for 400 years most British queens were French imports.  Many of the words used in the English kitchen today came from Norman French. For more about the French influence in the English kitchen click here.
Rabbit in the languages of France's neighbors:
(Catalan - conill de bosc), (Dutch - konijn ).(German - wildkaninchen), (Italian - coniglio), (Spanish  - conejo),

Lièvre – Hare.
Farmed hare.
Lièvre – An adult hare. A young hare, French is levraut, and in English, a young hare is a leveret. France farm raises most of their hares, and they will be on menus all year round. Hare has a slightly different taste to rabbit and a different texture. 

Hare on French menus:

Civet de Lièvre, Trompettes de la Mort et Céleri Rave – A traditional stew prepared with the black horn of plenty mushrooms and celeriac.  The French usually prepare celeriac, with its light taste of celery as a slightly rough puree that, in a restaurant’s low lighting you may mistake for hand mashed potatoes.

Lièvre à la Royale – Hare in the Royal manner. This is the most famous of all French recipes for hare; it is a dish that often has to be ordered days in advance. Here the hare is marinated for two or three days with thymecognac, and red wine and then cooked with pork, foie gras, red wine, onionsgarlicshallots and truffles if available. Traditionally this dish was made with wild hare, but this dish is available all year round and wild hare are only caught in a limited hunting season.

Lièvre à la Royale

Sometimes this dish is mistranslated on a French menu into English as Jugged Hare. Jugged hare is a traditional English dish.  Are they the same?  Jugged hare is wild hare marinated for a few days in a red wine, garlic, and herbs and, then served fried with salt pork prepared in its own wine marinade.  Alas, jugged hare misses the cognac, foie gras, shallots and truffles that are part of lièvre à la royale.  They are clearly not the same.

Filet de Lièvre, Salsifis. Amandes Fumées, Purée de Pommes de Terre aux Betteraves – A cut from a hare’s saddle served with salsify, the oyster plant,  smoked almonds and pureed potatoes flavored with beetroot.

Lièvre de Chasse – Wild hare; hare caught in the wild. It is not easy to catch a wild hare, they can run at up to 50 km an hour (31 miles an hour), and that makes them stringy and tough. Wild hare requires a great deal of preparation.
While enjoying an excellent dish of farm-raised hare I listened to a discussion with knowledgeable lovers of the great outdoors. Despite the dish that they were enjoying they insisted that hares are impossible to farm raise. They said that hares are too flighty and will die after one day in captivity or else will not breed; they insisted that the hare on our menu was wild. When you hear these arguments put them in touch with the French Fédération des Éleveurs de Lièvres, the French Hare Breeders Federation.  They will let them visit one of their member’s farms which are open to the public.
Hare in the languages of France’s neighbors:
 (Catalan -   llebre), (Dutch -  haas), (German - echten hasen ), (Italian  - lepre, lepre comune), (Spanish  - liebre).
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu.
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