Celebrated chef Jean-Louis Palladin, formerly of Jean-Louis at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., grew up not far from Cahors in south-western France. His recollections of a childhood spent eating wild game and mushrooms inspired him to develop this recipe for SAVEUR magazine.
Yield: serves 6
4 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 (2 1/2-lb.) rabbits, each cut into 6 pieces; hearts, kidneys, and livers reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 leek (white part only), washed and trimmed
2 carrots, peeled
1 turnip, peeled
2 celery stalks
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 1⁄3 cups dry red wine, such as cahors
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 lb. pearl onions, peeled
1 tbsp. sugar
1⁄4 lb. pancetta, julienned
1 lb. small white mushrooms
Melt 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Season rabbit with salt and pepper, then brown in batches, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Remove rabbit with a slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce heat to medium, add onions and garlic, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Chop leek, carrots, turnip, and celery, and add to pan. Add rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown, 7–10 minutes. Add wine and cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 15 minutes. Add stock and rabbit, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
Remove rabbit with a slotted spoon and set aside. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer, skimming occasionally, until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Add hearts, kidneys, and livers. Simmer until firm to the touch, about 5 minutes, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a food processor. Strain cooking liquid into food processor (discarding vegetables and herbs) and purée until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper and set aside.
Wipe out skillet, then add pearl onions, sugar, remaining butter, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until most of the water evaporates, about 15 minutes. Stir to coat onions in syrup, and cook, stirring, until onions begin to caramelize, 2–5 minutes. Heat remaining oil in a skillet over medium heat, add pancetta, and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms, and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.
To assemble, strain sauce through a fine sieve into large skillet. Add rabbit and warm over medium heat. Add pearl onions, pancetta, and mushrooms and heat through. Serve warm.