Food & Drink

Bacon-Tomato Braised Rabbit for Easter Dinner

Steal one from the playbook of Southern chefs and sink your teeth into a seasonal mascot

Photo: Denny Culbert

Here comes Peter Cottontail

Hoppin’ down the bunny trail

Hippity hoppity

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.

photo: David Bley
Pappardelle alla lepre.

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.)

photo: Denny Culbert
Curried rabbit.

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!”



    • 2½ lb. rabbit, dressed (head and skin removed)

    • 2 tbsp. grapeseed oil, divided

    • 2 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. ground black pepper

    • 8 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into squares

    • 1 large onion, diced

    • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

    • 3 bay leaves

    • 2 anchovy filets, smashed

    • 1 cup fresh salsa (good pico de gallo type, not jarred)

    • 12 oz. amber-style beer

    • ½ cup water


  1. Rub the rabbit with 1 tbsp. of the grapeseed oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

    Heat a Dutch oven and remaining 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil over medium heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Sear the rabbit for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the rabbit.

  2. Add the bacon and onion to the Dutch oven and sweat 2–4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon begins to render and the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and bay leaves and sweat for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in the anchovy and salsa and bring to a simmer. Add the beer and water and stir well. Add the rabbit. Bring to a simmer and cover with lid slightly ajar.

  3. Simmer for 1 hour, then flip the rabbit. Return lid (still askew) and simmer for another 80 minutes, until rabbit is fork tender. Serve alone or over rice, grits, or black-eyed peas.