As a child, one of my favorite dishes was a sweet and tangy stew that my Belgian grandma Pauline used to make. It was usually served during Christmas as the main dish and sometimes during Easter. My brother and I loved it and would often ask for this Belgian chicken dish. Because that's what we were told it was: chicken made the Belgian way.
One pretty Sunday in Spring, I must have been six or seven years old, my grandma's sisters and nieces came to visit. The table was set for lunch and judging from the smell that came from the kitchen, I knew we were going to have my favorite dish: Belgian chicken! How appropriate, I thought, Belgian chicken for Belgian ladies and said so to one of my grandma's nieces. She looked puzzled and said she had never heard of Belgian chicken before. I dismissed it at the time and figured they must call it something else over there.
Rabbit is hard to come by here in America but I found a small poultry processing plant in a town nearby that also does rabbits. And they happened to have a couple of them in the freezer, ready to go. Hiphiphurray!!!
Anyway, back to the bunny. So if there are no Easter eggs in your yard this year, I guess it's because I ate the Easter bunny. Just like that. With vinegar and brown sugar. And it was good! For those of you that have never had rabbit....it tastes a little bit like chicken. Belgian chicken. :-)
1 medium sized rabbit, approx. 2 lbs
2 cups of water, divided
1 cup of white wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
1 large size onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 tablespoons of butter
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup of water
pinch of ground cloves
Cut the rabbit up. I did a slightly un-traditional cut because I did not have a cleaver and the rabbit's backbone is hard as a rock. Make sure you remove small bones or splinters before cooking the meat, they can be nasty.
Add the water, vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorns and slices of onion to a large bowl and add the pieces of meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, take the meat out of the marinade and pat it dry with some paper towels. Heat two tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven and quickly brown the meat on all sides. Remove from the pan, brown the onions and add the meat back in. Pour the marinade over the meat but keep the peppercorns behind, they are a pain to remove once the sauce is made. Bring to a boil, turn low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan, scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and add the brown sugar and the second cup of water if needed. Bind the sauce with a tablespoon of flour and 1/3 cup water, taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Add the meat back to the sauce and simmer for another hour or until the meat is tender to the point where it falls off the bone.
Add the pinch of ground cloves, taste again and adjust. You want a sweet, tangy but not overly sugary taste. Serve with boiled potatoes and red cabbage.