Here comes Peter Cottontail
Hoppin’ down the bunny trail
Lunch is on its way
Those are definitely not the original lyrics to the beloved holiday ditty written in 1949 and sung by the likes of Gene Autry and Danny Kaye. But it does seem to be the sentiment of some top Southern chefs who want us to observe the season by eating the Easter Bunny. Okay, not the actual Easter Bunny, who presumably is too stringy from all that hippity-hopping around the planet, but plenty of his relations who didn’t land such a plum gig.
Twitchy at the notion of sinking your teeth into fluffy bunny for Easter brunch? Then maybe you’d like to begin with the pappardelle alla lepre from chefs Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer at Boia De in Miami, which not only nudges the word “rabbit” out of the dish name (lepre is Italian for hare) but also tucks the succulent meat, braised in white wine and chicken stock, amid wide folds of egg-yolk pasta. Also on the inconspicuous side is the rabbit pot pie from chef Brian Landry at Nashville’s Marsh House. (Tell the kiddos it’s just chicken bubbling under that puff pastry.)
More recognizably rabbity is chef Nina Compton’s curried preparation at Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans, with an unambiguous, delicious leg jutting out of a bowl of coconut-chicken broth and white rice. (Hey, at least it’s not a floppy ear.) “I don’t think there is a problem eating rabbit on Easter,” Compton says in defense. “After all, we eat turkey on Thanksgiving. Plus, rabbit is very sustainable, super lean and tender, and extremely versatile—you can braise it, stuff it, fry it, make a stew or lasagna or, as I do, a flavorful curry.” (Wow, she really has it out for rabbits.)
Even less apologetic is New Orleans chef Isaac Toups of Toups’ Meatery, who created his hearty, ragu-like dish of bacon-tomato-braised whole rabbit (recipe below) out of necessity when a deer hunt bagged only much smaller game. “What most people don’t know is that rabbits are jerks,” Toups says. “It’s my pleasure to cook them up for Easter!”