Food and Wine

FOOD TREND: The renaissance of rabbit on local menus

The prosciutto-wrapped saddle of rabbit from John Taylor at Domus Café. Photography by Christian Lalonde / photoluxstudio.com

By Shawna Wagman

When Marysol Foucault, chef-owner of Edgar and Odile, served a special charity dinner of stuffed rabbit saddle with rabbit rillette and rabbit liver mouselline as an homage to childhood comfort food, I knew hers was a very different upbringing from mine.

But for those who grew up in Quebec — or France or Italy for that matter — there was a time when rabbit was a dinnertime staple. Today the tasty protein is experiencing a surge in popularity, according to Red Apron’s co-owner Jo-Ann Laverty, though she understands that not everyone is accustomed to the idea of eating it. “At some point, rabbit became the family pet,” she notes. “Visions of the Easter Bunny don’t help to present it as a palatable option on the plate.”

But that’s changing now as greater numbers of conscientious cooks, as well as more adventurous and environmentally ethical eaters, are coming to appreciate the taste — and the relatively low ecological impact — of rabbit.

It is often touted that rabbits will produce six pounds of meat on the same feed and water that a cow will consume to produce one pound.

Laverty and her business partner, Jennifer Heagle, are happy to educate their customers about the benefits of eating rabbit, pointing out that it’s both higher in protein, iron, and minerals and lower in calories and fat than chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, and beef.

Since sampling the delicious bake-at-home rabbit pot pie from Red Apron, we’ve spotted the furry creatures on menus all over town, including rabbit confit chilaquiles at Navarra, old-fashioned prosciutto-wrapped saddle at Domus Café, rabbit with prunes and linen tea at Castlegarth, and rabbit dumpling stew at Union Local 613. The chefs appear to be sold; now it’s merely a matter of converting a generation that thinks of rabbits as the stars of storybooks and cartoons rather than dinner plates.

“I believe that any omnivore who cares about where their food comes from — and the impact producing it has on the environment — needs to consider rabbit,” says Heagle.

This story appears in the April edition of Ottawa Magazine. Buy the magazine on newsstands in April, or order your online edition.

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