This week I cut up two rabbits and made numerous things with them. I was surprised at the 8 oz. hind legs, and as soon as I appreciated their size I thought of confit. I hadn't made rabbit confit before, but the legs had the same feel as the numerous duck legs I've slipped into pots of fat. Some of my rabbit stews this winter haven't gone over well with the family, so I decided to treat the rabbits the same way I do ducks - differently. I always cut up ducks and use the various parts separately; roasting a whole duck seems like a perfectly good way to ruin half a duck, so I keep away from that time-honored method.
When I make pancetta I'm usually left with a big piece of pig skin which I throw in the freezer; I first thought of wrapping the long, lean loins in the pig skin and roasting them, but decided to use the pig skin as a blanket, insulator, and moisturizer for the poaching-in-fat, slow-cooking rabbit leg confit. After marinating the rabbit meat with a rub that contained juniper berries, thyme, garlic, salt and bay leaves, I unfolded a long piece of pig skin and put it on the bottom of the dutch oven. The rabbit pieces went on top of that, after which I covered any exposed rabbit with another big piece of pig skin. I melted a pan of duck fat and covered the whole thing, and put it into a slow, 200F oven.
I made sausage with the loins and miscellaneous bits of meat, adding a little pork and back fat to the mixture. The sausage meat also marinated overnight, and the three pounds of links will probably be grilled. My meat grinder has a space in the front that, when I'm done grinding or stuffing, still holds nearly a pound of meat. I made meatballs with that loose meat, adding breadcrumbs, eggs, shallots and a little more seasoning before forming small meatballs that I poached in a reduced rabbit stock, made from the stripped-bare carcasses and enhanced with onions, celery, etc...
My kids and I enjoyed a simple plate of pasta, peas and rabbit meatballs this evening, and we all look forward to our upcoming meals with this versatile animal.