According to the late, great Cajun chef, Paul Prudhomme, “piquant to a Cajun means, literally, so hot it hurts like a sticker in your tongue.”
This recipe for rabbit sauce piquant is a based on a Prudhomme recipe, but with a few changes made to accommodate wild rabbits instead of the more-tender domestic rabbits. It is a three-step recipe that includes making stock and tenderizing the rabbits, making a roux and then combining the two to simmer into a final, hot-as-fire dish.
In a big pot, cover rabbits and vegetables with water and bring to a boil. After five minutes, reduce heat to low and simmer no less than 3 hours. Strain off and reserve stock, toss vegetables and, once cooled, carefully de-bone the rabbit meat, making sure to remove all shot pellets, and then set aside. The size of the pieces left is moot, since it will fall apart while cooking.
In a Dutch oven, add oil and flour over medium-high heat and make a roux. Lower heat and slowly cook until a light-brown roux about the color of peanut butter is achieved. Remove from heat and immediately stir in half the onion, bell pepper and celery to stop the roux from cooking. Return to medium heat and add remaining onion, bell pepper and celery, plus the jalapeno, garlic and half the seasoning mix and cook until onions are translucent. Add tomato paste and stir until dissolved. Scrape the bottom during cooking to prevent sticking but keeping anything that sticks in the pot. Add the tomatoes and cook a few more minutes. Add the hot sauce.
Making the sauce piquant
Bring half of the stock to boil in a large gumbo pot and start adding the roux/vegetable mix one big spoonful at a time, stirring to dissolve, until all is mixed. Add rabbit and remaining seasoning mix. Reduce heat to medium, stir frequently and make sure nothing is sticking. As the roux and rabbit thicken the stock, add remaining stock a little at a time until desired thickness is reached. Reduce heat to low and let simmer at least an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if needed. Do not be alarmed as rabbit begins to fall apart. That is the goal. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
Serve in bowls, over rice, with French bread for dipping.
Rabbit Sauce Piquant Stock
3 swamp or 5 hillbilly rabbits, or a mixture of both, cut into quarters and one loin piece
1 gallon of water
Trimmings from celery, onions, carrots, garlic
3 bay leaves
Seasonings, mixed in advance
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dry mustard
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp white pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1½ cup canola oil
2 cups flour
3 cups diced onion
2 cups diced bell pepper
2 cups chopped celery
½ cup chopped minced fresh (not pickled) jalapeno, seeds removed
4 cups diced, peeled tomatoes (if using canned, drain and use no-salt added)
1 tbsp or more minced garlic
1 small can, tomato paste
2 tbsp hot sauce (Louisiana preferred)