Rabbit braised in cider (lapin au cidre) is a classic French dish that looks fancy, sounds fancy but is super easy to make. It’s a great dish to make if you want to impress someone or sit down to a Sunday dinner of comfort food. Want to pull out all the stops for Mom this weekend? Do it with this dish.
The recipe is pretty straightforward for a braising recipe (brown meat, add liquid, simmer on the stovetop) but you might have to run out for the more unusual items like calvados, cider and rabbit. And on that note: if you’re in Edmonton, you’ll find this particular protein at the Italian Centre Shop and some Loblaws. The producer is La Ferme Avicole d’Oka in Quebec. The package in the top right of the photo below is what I found at Superstore. It cost just under $30. I cooked for two people and used only the legs, thighs and shoulders.
Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy) can be purchased at most liquor stores but you could also use regular brandy, cognac or sherry as a substitute. For the apple cider, I used a craft cider from Creek & Gully out of Penticton, BC. I would not recommend using a high sugar, commercially made cider.
This is a good photo of how the meat looks once you take it out of the package. The liver and kidneys also come in the package and I meant to use them but I had put the little morsels aside and then forgot about them. They would’ve added extra umami and depth to the mix, but that being said, the dish still had excellent flavour without them. The loin (top of picture) was saved for another recipe.
I based my lapin au cidre off a recipe from Food Lust People Love. Their recipe comes from a vintage recipe card they got from a recipe club back when recipe clubs were a thing—every month you’d get a recipe in the mail and put it in a big, clunky binder. The photography wasn’t great but the recipes seemed so posh and intriguing. It was fun to get that package every month in the mail, and I admit to having collected a few of those binders back in the day.
The only alterations I made to FLPL’s recipe were to the amounts of rabbit (I used less) and the amount of cider (I used more). The ingredient list below is how I made it and not how FLPL has it on their website.
1 large carrot – chopped
1 stalk celery – chopped
3 shallots – chopped
4 cloves garlic – minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 rabbit, cut up: legs, thighs and shoulders – 4 pieces total (about 1.2 kg worth of meat)
1/3 cup or 80ml calvados (or cognac, brandy or sherry)
2 cups or 480 ml artisanal (craft) dry apple cider (or pear cider—do not use sugary mass-produced ciders)
1/2 cup or about 125g crème fraîche or thick sour cream (I used 14% M.F. sour cream)
4 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish.
With side dishes, this meal will serve 4 people.
1. Peel and chop the carrots and shallots. Dice the garlic. Chop the celery. Set aside.
2. Heat the butter and oil in a pan large enough to fit all of the rabbit pieces in one layer without too much crowding. I used my largest Le Creuset.
3. Brown the rabbit pieces on both sides in the pan. Once they are browned, add the vegetables, shallots and garlic. Let cook for a few minutes.
4. Add calvados (sherry or cognac). If you want to flame the brandy, go for it now. If not, the alcohol will evaporate to almost the same amount while simmering for the required 60 minutes or so.
5. Add in the cider and season with salt and pepper.
6. Add in the thyme and bay leaves.
7. Cover the pot and cook on low for about 50-60 minutes. (If you’re using FLPL’s original recipe, check around the 30-minute mark. If too much liquid has cooked down, add more cider, as I did.)
8. At the end of the cooking time, add in the crème fraiche/sour cream and mix well.
If necessary, cook for a few more minutes with the lid off so that the sauce can reduce in volume and thicken slightly. Mine was fine as is.
Taste the sauce and add more salt or pepper if needed. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
I served this dish with roasted asparagus and roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with rosemary salt and paired it with a full-bodied pinot gris from Wild Goose, a small winery near Ok Falls (Okanagan region) in British Columbia.