Cuts of meat that come from different muscle groups in an animal require different cooking to make them shine. For instance, a ribeye steak is best served medium rare after a quick sear and some resting, whereas a brisket needs to be cooked low and slow to become tender and delicious to eat. Smaller animals like chickens and rabbits are often cooked whole, disregarding the wisdom gained from preparing beef in separate parts. Part of the reason for this may be that a chicken fits easier into most pans and ovens than a whole cow does 😉 A more economical reason is that if you judge by effort per pound of meat, a relatively big effort is needed to separate the different muscle groups of a small animal. Even so, it is worth doing so to get the best results. This is also true for rabbit. Rabbit loins are the ‘rib eye’ of the rabbit, they are very tender and require very little cooking. The legs and other parts however need to be braised or stewed. Even so, rabbit is often cooked whole with the loin dried out.
I thought this to be a waste of a very nice piece of meat, and so when I bought a whole rabbit I decided to do my own butchering and divide the rabbit into loins, legs, flap meat, and carcass. (Of course you can also ask your butcher to do this for you.) The latter three parts will be used for tomorrow’s recipe. The tenderloins are so small in a 1.1 kg (2.5 lbs) rabbit that they are hardly worth getting out. The loins themselves were about 160 grams together or about 14% of the weight of the rabbit.
On the same day I had bought the rabbit, I had also bought some very nice prosciutto. As I still have fresh sage growing in my garden, I decided to turn those rabbit loins into rabbit saltimbocca. Saltimbocca is a famous dish from Rome consisting of veal scaloppine with prosciutto and sage. It is so delicious that it is called “jump into mouth” (salt = jump, bocca = mouth). I prefer to have a rabbit jumping in the direction of my mouth rather than a calf 😉 But seriously, this rabbit saltimbocca was absolutely delicious. The meat is super tender and succulent, and pairs very well with the prosciutto and sage. Compared to the veal version, it is a bit lighter and softer in style.
Rabbit could be cheaper and easier to find than veal, but that depends on where you are located. Apart from the deboning part, preparing rabbit saltimbocca is as quick and easy as the original using veal. You pound the loins thin, add sage and prosciutto, panfry briefly in clarified butter, and finally deglaze the pan to make the sauce.
2 rabbit loins, membranes removed
2 slices prosciutto
2 fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp clarified butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
60 ml (1/4 cup) dry white wine
A medium-bodied but complex and flavorful dry Italian white is best for this, such as a good Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi. A dry rosé or very light red could also work.