A braised Rabbit with Chocolate Sauce and red wine served on a thick mashed potatoes bed. A traditional recipe of Catalonia called Conejo al chocolate.
This is a creation inspired by a Catalan dish called Conejo al chocolate, which means rabbit in chocolate. This version is slightly different than the traditional recipe from Catalonia, Spain. I know the Basques have their own version also, with brandy instead of wine. In Catalonia, they use fortified wine called “Rancio” to make it, a bit similar to Porto. To make this recipe easier to reproduce at home I’ve just used a normal wine, but a Porto would do too. It makes the dish, in the end, a bit less sweet which personally I prefer.
Rabbit recipes are great but often underrated because just like chicken breasts the meat is so lean… cooking it the wrong way will dry it out fast and ruin it. For this recipe, no worries, it is a kind of stew so it won’t dry out the meat.
I’ve picked up the rabbit at my favourite market, as always, and asked the lady what she does with the heads. “Is there anything to eat in it or is it for broth making only?” she recommended eating the cheeks and tongue. Then said you either love it or hate it, it’s a black or white thing… So, after the cooking process, I tried both and it surprisingly was a “grey” situation… the cheeks, I loved! A super tender and tasty part. As for the tongue… ouf! I’ll have to work on that one… I need a good tongue recipe to make peace with it, I’m open to invitations to share a rabbit tongue recipe here…
Chocolate from Guadeloupe
Chocolate is a great thickener for sauces, although it isn’t used much nowadays, I guess because of its price. My chocolate comes from the Mecca of Chocolate; Guadeloupe. I visited the “Maison du cacao” last year and couldn’t resist the urge to buy that big 1kg pure cacao brick. They drink the cacao paste; Gwo Kako, in Creole and they use the cacao butter to cook and also to moisturize their skin… I mean chocolate is so polyvalent. While at the museum, they made us a cacao drink with the Gwo Kako, cane sugar and water, never use milk! the lady said, no idea why… and simply with water, it was an “out of that world” experience, such a velvety and chocolaty delight! Ok, ok…. enough about that, let’s go back to our recipe…
The Final Step: the Picada
The final step of the recipe ends with a “Picada“. This is “the number one” thing you learn in traditional Catalan cooking class and it makes a big difference to a dish. It’s a really small amount of paste added at the end of the cooking process of a stew or sauce made out of a mix of fresh herbs, nuts, garlic, olive oil, etc. Depending on the recipe you make, sometimes it’s just 2 or more ingredients. It’s a great trick to give your meal a final fresh touch and also helps thickens the leftover liquid. Usually, it’s by hand done in a mortar. The Picada stays optional but if you want to make this extra small step it will bring your meal the extra mile! Believe me, this Catalan little secret is well worth the extra 2 minutes of work.
So let’s make that chocolate rabbit!
Rabbit with Chocolate Sauce
- 2 rabbits (4 loins plus 4 legs)
- 100 ml red wine (fortified wine better (porto, rancio, etc.))
- 200 ml chicken broth
- 60 g dark chocolate (75% or more)
- 2 carrots (diced up)
- 8 french shallots (finely chopped)
- 2 garlic clove (finely chopped)
- 1 bouquet garni
- 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
- salt and pepper
The picada (the finishing touch)
- 2 tbsp of flat leave parsley finely chopped
- 10 skinless almond (or 1 tbsp in powder)
- 1/2 garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Start by cleaning the rabbit legs, cut the extra skin over the bone and push it down to show the bone.
- Season with salt and pepper to the rabbit.
- In a big iron cast, medium-high heat, brown those rabbit legs for 1 minute before adding the loins, cook until golden on each sides.
- Add all the cut vegetables to the pan, cook at medium-high heat for two more minutes.
- Add a splash of Brandy to deglaze the bottom of your pot.
- Then, add the wine, broth and spices.
- Bring to a soft simmer.
- Insert in the oven at 180°C (350F°), partially covered, for 30-40 minutes.
- Take out of the oven, take the pieces of rabbit out and reserve.
- In a fine strainer filter the sauce into a pan.
- Add the Picada and cook for another minute.
- Stop the fire and add the chocolate, let it melt with the residual heat.
- Put back the rabbit pieces into the sauce.