This recipe comes from How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking (Little, Brown) by Michael Psilakis.
As I've mentioned, the muscle formation in the legs of most animals makes for tough, stringy meat. Confit involves cooking slowly, which allows these formations to break down and yield a luscious result. The added dimension of grilling provides a brilliant smoky char that takes this dish to new levels. Serve with Greek Salad, Spinach Rice, Artichokes and Potato, or Dried Fruit Salad.
Serves 4 to 6 family-style, or more as part of a larger spread
• 1 whole rabbit, skinned and cut into • 8 pieces (the saddle in 2 pieces)
• 1 whole shallot • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
• 3 fresh bay leaves or 6 dried leaves • 8 cloves
• 15 to 20 whole black peppercorns • 8 star anise pods
• 16 juniper berries • 6 cardamom pods
• 10 sprigs thyme • 4 sprigs rosemary
• 1 teaspoon mustard seeds • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
• Blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive) • Roasted Lemon Purée (page 149, optional)
• Lemon wedges, for squeezing
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Rinse the rabbit in cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
In a heavy lidded pot or a large Dutch oven, combine the rabbit with the shallot, garlic cloves, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, star anise pods, juniper berries, cardamom pods, thyme, rosemary, mustard seeds, and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Add enough oil to cover by about half an inch, then lightly press a piece of parchment paper down on the surface of the oil. Cover the pan and cook until tender but not falling apart, about 3 hours.
Check occasionally--the oil should never come to a full simmer; reduce the heat as necessary. (When done, you may cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days. However, you must slowly heat the rabbit pieces in confit oil in a warm oven before grilling, otherwise the center will be cold.)
Photo Courtesy of Little, Brown
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill, or ridged cast-iron grill pan, until very hot. Lift the rabbit pieces out of the confit oil and season with kosher salt and pepper. Reserve the oil until serving time. Lightly sear the rabbit to imbue the smoky char "flavor of the grill (remember, the rabbit is already cooked). Drizzle with a little of the confit oil and squeeze a wedge of lemon over, or, if you have Roasted Lemon Purée on hand, paint the rabbit with some of the lemon purée instead. You may also use the rabbit-infused confit oil to make a quick vinaigrette or to roast some mushrooms to serve alongside.
The oil will add another dimension of flavor in both cases.
*Lightly cure the rabbit before making it into a confit: mix 3 tablespoons kosher salt with 1 tablespoon sugar. Rub the mixture all over the rabbit pieces and place on a rack in your refrigerator overnight, uncovered. Rinse well and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels before you begin the confit.
*Make the confit with a mixture of 50 percent extra-virgin olive oil and 50 percent canola or safflower oil instead of a 10 percent/90 percent blend.
* Rabbit confit makes the very best deep-fried rabbit you'll ever have: smear the pieces of rabbit with Dijon mustard, and bread as you would for deep-frying, using milk, "our, beaten egg, bread crumbs or pink; fry until golden brown.