Recipe: Rabbits Braised with Spiced Tomatoes, Shallots, and Fennel

By Jenna Rozelle

This dish is a warm hug, with a wink –comforting and familiar but saucy and intriguing. A braise like this checks all of my boxes – it’s bold but not challenging, it’s a visual feast before you even taste it, it feeds a crowd in one pot and makes the house smell like a Three Michelin Star restaurant. It’s welcoming, it’s forgiving, it’s versatile and everyone I’ve ever made it for has said either “Ooh” or “Aah” or “Wow”. You can use almost the whole suite of upland game, here, and you can ladle it over almost any starch, though I’m partial to creamy white beans, whipped potatoes or grits are also lovely. Fennel is a polarizing vegetable, I know, but even if you aren’t crazy about raw fennel, I’d urge you to try this just once for me, as braised fennel is a whole different mild, jammy, caramelized thing. This meal is another opportunity to play with wild herbs - a sprig or two of something savory from your local landscape to deepen the terroir of the meal - a final offering to the rabbits in the pot and the rabbit gods for future hunts. Conley suggests a gamay, here, or a hunt club sour, while Dombrowski says “San De Cailloux Vaqueras brings life to any earthy plate.”


- 3 cottontails (OR 2 hare, 1 domestic rabbit, 4 squirrels, 2 wild turkey thighs, 4 pheasant thighs.)
- High heat, neutral oil
- 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 medium cloves garlic, sliced
- 3 shallots, halved, vertically
- 8 -12 small vine tomatoes, halved, horizontally
- 2 Tbsp tomato chutney or jam
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 cups chicken or blonde game stock
- 1 whole dried cayenne or other chili pepper, optional
- Parsley to serve
- Creme fraiche, optional


1. Preheat oven to 275F
2. Portion each rabbit into legs, loins and rib flaps, removing ribs. Salt and pepper all pieces generously.
3. Put a large dutch oven or braising pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom.
4. When the oil is shimmering hot, add as many rabbit pieces as will fit without crowding and brown, about 3 minutes per side or until deeply, golden brown. Repeat for the remaining pieces, topping off the oil before adding them if more is needed for the second batch. Set the browned rabbit aside and lower the heat.
5. Add the fennel and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, then push to the side to make room to place the shallots, cut-side down, and let sit undisturbed for 2-3 minutes. When everything begins to turn golden, add garlic and cook a minute or two more. For visual appeal, turn and lift out the shallots gently to keep them intact and set aside, otherwise, leave them in with everything else.
6. Add tomato paste, tomato jam, paprika and chicken stock, salt and pepper, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, raise heat to medium-high, stir to mix well, and bring to a boil to reduce for 5 minutes.
7. Remove from heat, scatter in half of the tomatoes, and add rabbit pieces back in, spreading evenly throughout the pan. In the spaces between rabbit pieces, place, cut-side up, the shallots and remaining tomatoes, the cinnamon stick, and the whole dried chile (optional).
8. Put the lid on and put it in the oven for 2.5 hours.
9. Remove the lid at 2.5 hours to reduce liquid.
10. Check at 3 hours. The meat should be nearly falling off the bone and everything else should be jammy and tender. If you’d like to thicken it further, return to the oven, if you’re happy with the brothiness, remove it from the oven.
11. Serve over polenta, white beans, potatoes, or rice and finish with chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon, and a spoonful of creme fraiche.

For more, read Five Questions and Three Recipes with Jenna Rozelle.