My wife Roxanne is a wiz in the kitchen, and her sauce-bathed dumplings are a Southern classic I crave. I love the way her pillowy, soft dumplings sink into the bed of herb-infused meat (usually chicken) and soak up the spicy blanket of gravy for what I can only describe as comfort food.
Recently I dreamed of this dish. Yes, as a food writer I often fall asleep after a long jaunt spinning stories of Cajun recipes and Creole cooking and find myself dreaming of the same dishes and recipes I write about. I keep a bedside pad and pen for any middle-of-the-night inspirations that wake me, and it was dumplings that awoke me recently.
The next morning I looked at the nightstand and saw my scratch pad with the barely legible words “dumplings,” “tasso,” and “rabbit.” Rabbit? Yes, rabbit. Pure genius I thought: My wife’s famous dumplings stewed down in a smoky tasso-infused broth with the rich white meat of rabbit.
Cooking with rabbit is a common Cajun recipe in Acadiana and the only trick is to keep the low-fat protein from drying out. A long braise is the way to go and the light fluffy dumplings complement perfectly.
One taste of this rabbit and dumplings recipe, and I’ll bet you’ll be dreaming of this dish, too.
- 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup non-fat dry, powdered milk
- ¼ cup baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup canola oil
- 1 cup whole milk, plus more if needed
- 1 (2.5 pound) whole rabbit with organ meats (optional)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups roughly chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup roughly chopped celery
- 1 cup roughly chopped green bell pepper
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 8 cups dark chicken stock, plus more if needed
- In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, dry milk, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Mix together. While whisking, slowly drizzle the canola oil. Continue whisking until the mix becomes wet with a meal-like texture. If you like, this mix can now be covered, refrigerated, and held until ready to make the dumpling batter.
- To make the batter, whisk half of the milk into the mix until thoroughly combined. Continue adding milk until the mixture becomes wet and very thick but not runny like pancake batter. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cut the rabbit into quarters and then cut the back in half. Season with salt and pepper.
- Unpackage the organ meats, if using. Rinse them in cold water and reserve.
- In a large cast-iron pot over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is smoking, add the rabbit skin-side down. Brown the rabbit on all sides and remove to a platter.
- Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and carrots, along with the remaining oil, if needed. Cook until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Continue cooking for another 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in another pan over high heat, add the chicken stock and all the rabbit organ meats, if using. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the organ meats and chop into very small pieces. Add the organ meats to the pot with the vegetables.
- Add the rabbit pieces to the pot and pour over the chicken stock. Cover and let cook on the stovetop at a simmer for 1 hour.
- Check to see that the rabbit is fork-tender, and there is still sufficient liquid in the pot. If not, add additional stock. Turn off the heat until ready to add the dumplings to finish the dish.
- Bring the pot containing the rabbit and stock to a boil. Lower the hit to a simmer. Using a large spoon, scoop a 1-tablespoon-size portion of the dumpling mix. Drop the dumplings into the stock around the rabbit pieces. Place them so that they are not touching. Let simmer uncovered on the stove top for 10 minutes. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot covered. Serve immediately.
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