Here at Rabbit Hill, we raise rabbits both for the organic material they provide for the garden (manure), and for meat. This year, we are exploding with rabbits, 39 to be exact, with 2 more litters on the way. The total count could be almost 60 rabbits! With such a surplus of rabbit inventory, I’m on a quest for different and delicious preparations for this mild-tasting, healthy, white meat.
My research included reading Hank Shaw’s book, “Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail”, in which I learned that rabbit is also a very popular game animal. Shaw relates that there are roughly 1.5 million rabbit hunters in the United States, making them the most numerous hunters in the country. In Europe and other parts of the world, rabbit is one of the most widely domesticated and consumed meats.
In this Year of the Rabbit, here in Maine, I am delighted to find more rabbit meat available at local farmer’s markets, food coops, and supermarkets. In Italian, French and Spanish cuisines, rabbit is extremely popular, due to the abundance of product and status as fine fare.
The recipe for Coniglio allo spiedo, or Rabbit on a Stick, is adapted from a recipe in Field and Stream magazine. The magazine states that the preparation also works well for squirrel, and we found it to be successful for small, Maine, farm-raised chickens, around 3 to 4 pounds.
The whole carcass, (either rabbit, chicken or squirrel), is first marinated in a blend of olive oil, lemon juice and fresh herbs like rosemary and sage. Then the meat is skewered and cooked, rotisserie style over hot, wood coals while basted with a honey glaze.
No wood roasting fire pit in your back yard, don’t despair! The modern, barbeque grill equipped with a rotisserie and a good thermometer work just as well. Skewer your animal, and set the skewer in the grill. Turn and baste frequently. After about 30 minutes, start taking the temperature of the meat, in particular the thickest parts. Rabbit should be cooked to an internal temperature of 155 degrees, and chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Humans have long enjoyed food cooked over an open flame or on the barbeque grill. The outside fresh air, the aroma of cooking food, the company of family and friends and a perfectly cooked rabbit or chicken on a stick are the perfect way to enjoy a taste of summer.
WOOD-ROASTED RABBIT ON A STICK
- 1 whole rabbit or small chicken 3 – 3 ½ pounds
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon juice and zest
- Handful of fresh sage leaves
- 3 garlic cloves smashed
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon Maine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons honey for the glaze
- Maine sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Wash the rabbit or chicken and pat dry. Set aside.
- To prepare the marinade, add the olive oil to a medium bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest. Stir in the sage, garlic, rosemary, peppercorns and salt. Add the whole rabbit or chicken to a zip-seal bag, and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and marinate the carcass in the refrigerator for up to four hours.
- When ready to cook, remove the rabbit or chicken from the bag, reserving the marinade. Pat the carcass dry, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes to come up to room temperature.
- To prepare the glaze, pour about ¼ cup of the marinade into a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the honey into the warmed marinade. Set the glaze aside.
- For an outdoor fire, start the fire with dried hardwood. Build a rotisserie by driving two forked sticks of green wood, 1-inch in diameter or larger, into the ground toward the front edge of the fire. Continue feeding the fire by adding wood to the back and raking hot coals toward the front. Or heat the grill to medium-hot.
- Skewer the rabbit lengthwise with another stick of green wood about 2 feet long. Use two thin skewers threaded through the front and rear quarters to hold the rabbit in place. Or skewer the rabbit with the metal rotisserie of your barbeque grill.
- Set the skewered rabbit or chicken in the forked sticks, which should be 8 – 10 inches above the ground, and rake the hot coals under the rotisserie. Or place the rabbit or chicken in the cradle on the grill. Cook the rabbit or chicken, turning and basting with the glaze. Continue to turn and baste until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees for rabbit, and 165 degrees for chicken. The cooking process takes about 45 – 60 minutes, depending upon the heat of the fire and the size of the carcass.
- Remove the meat from the skewer, cut into pieces, and season with Maine sea salt and fresh pepper before serving.