Bring some variety into the kitchen with this versatile mushroom cream sauce that pairs well with upland and small game
There were several seasons prior to owning a dog when I headed afield for upland birds and returned home with rabbit. I never complained because rabbit is, in my opinion, great table fare. Like squirrel, it can be tough if not cooked properly. In addition, because it is lean, it is possible for it to dry out. Brining and braising in liquids helps to avoid this.
Please note that while this recipe calls for rabbit, you can use this sauce-and-gnocchi combo for any upland, white-flesh game. This sauce may very well become a household favorite for many dishes, even fish. This recipe opts for store-bought gnocchi; perhaps homemade gnocchi is a recipe for another time.
The steps below call for a crock pot, but you could also use a self-basting Dutch oven in the oven at 200 degrees F for several hours. Just make certain that the rabbit remains half-submerged in liquids and that the liquids don’t completely evaporate. Give the rabbit enough time via either method—crock pot or Dutch oven—and the meat will easily fall off the bone. Just make sure to dig out and discard the bones prior to serving.
As with any cream sauce, it requires time to reduce until it’s thick. This will likely take upwards of an hour or longer, so plan accordingly. Have patience and it’ll taste amazing.
Ingredients for Four Servings
One rabbit, approximately 2 to 2½ pounds
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup Coca-Cola
16-24 ounces gnocchi (depends on how much gnocchi you want per person)
For the brine:
1 gallon cold water
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup white sugar
½ cup whole black peppercorns
1 cup fresh garlic, smashed
8 ounces fresh ginger, smashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons salted butter, mixed use
1½ cups beef stock
½ cup sherry cooking wine
2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
½ medium onion, finely minced
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms
1 pint heavy whipping cream
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, mixed
Freshly minced parsley for garnish (optional)
Shredded Parmesan for garnish (optional)
- Follow brine instructions and brine rabbit for 24 hours. Be certain to thoroughly rinse under cold water afterward.
- Either roast or smoke rabbit at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour or sear quickly over a hot fire.
- Place rabbit in crock pot heated on low with 1 cup chicken stock and ½ cup Coca-Cola and cook for 8 hours or until meat falls tenderly off bone. Be careful about picking out bones, especially when serving to little ones. Shred the meat and remove bones, but leave meat in crock pot on warm hold until ready to serve.
- To make sauce, add 1 tablespoon salted butter to saucepan heated on medium-low. Once melted, add 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic.
- Stir garlic for 2-3 minutes in heated butter until it releases aroma, then add 1½ cups beef stock and ½ cup sherry cooking wine. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Once liquids reduce to half, add 1 pint heavy whipping cream. Stir often, allowing cream to reduce to one third of its volume. Do not let it boil over.
- In a separate skillet heated on medium, add 1 tablespoon salted butter along with finely diced onion. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Once onions are browned, add mushrooms and stir often, allowing moisture to cook off for approximately 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add to cream sauce and continue to reduce cream sauce until it is thick. The sauce should turn darker and stick to spoon when dipped and held upside down.
- To cook gnocchi, boil a pot of water and add gnocchi. Cook until gnocchi floats to top, approximately 6-8 minutes.
- To serve, add gnocchi to plate or bowl and top with shredded rabbit and sauce. Garnish with freshly minced parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese.
Jack Hennessy grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and didn't start hunting until he attended graduate school in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 26. Hennessy began work in professional kitchens in high school but didn't start writing wild game recipes until he joined the Spokesman-Review in 2014. Since then, his recipes have appeared with Petersen's Hunting, Backcountry Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, among many others. He now lives with his wife, daughter, and Wirehaired Vizsla, Dudley, in Wichita, Kansas.