December 2017

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I opened my mouth and those three, seemingly insignificant words managed to land me in hot water. Innocent maybe, to the passing bystander, but in the context of a field trip to The UWI's Faculty of Food and Agriculture's Field Station and a wonderful discussion on Trinbagonian Christmas foods with expert veterinarian Dr. Corinne Wong and the charming secretary, Mrs. Cassandra Lewis, those three words were the bane of my existence for a few days.

I had never cooked rabbit. I had never eaten rabbit. Everyone I asked said that it tastes like chicken, which was not very helpful. Everything new “tastes like chicken.” That's a lie we chefs tell to get someone to try something new. So I knew when I was being sold the farm, so to speak.

Through the kind graces of the Dean of the Faculty, Dr. Wayne Ganpat, I scored a gratis cleaned and butchered animal, that I must admit looks like chicken in its little styrofoam boat. It's taking every ounce of my creative abilities to figure out how to do justice to this animal. It must not have sacrificed its life in vain. It will become a star on a Christmas lunch menu.

With my primal cooking instinct kicking in, I defaulted to my safe space and I thought about a stew. Quintessentially Trinbagonian, a stew is perfect for almost any type of meat, but this would relegate it to the ranks of a river-lime-wild-meat cook… an informal dish. While a fine addition to any party, it won't really be a star standout. I needed to dress this up with simple, yet powerful ingredients to achieve that double-take on the first morsel. Turn up the je ne sais quoi to eleven, one might say. But not too much – because we have a bit of an aversion to the overly-fancy.

I brought it up in the place where a lot of arguments are either created or settled; the lunch table at work – and although most of them were on board with the idea of rabbit, they agreed that too fancy simply won't cut it. At least they were on board with the idea. At home, the concept of rabbit simply wasn't getting any traction for inspiration.

What's more bourgeois than stewed rabbit, but less booge than perhaps a browned butter and rosemary braised rabbit? The answer is a preparation that is synonymous with Sunday lunches across the country, as well as most tables at Christmas. We're gonna bake it. Baked rabbit with my special sauce it is.

Clearly, a whole lot of thought (or overthinking) went into today's preparation, and I haven't even started cooking yet.

Fast forward one week. The dish is now in the oven and the house smells fantastic.

I present to you a Baked Rabbit, with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. First impressions are that it looks exactly like chicken. First bite, it tastes just like chicken, although a bit gamier. Quite a lot of hard bones, similar to turkey, but not a lot of fat. My instincts paid off.

Since rabbit meat is naturally lean, it needed a lot of moisture and some added fat, cooked at a lower temperature to keep it tender. Admittedly, it is a bit chewier than chicken, but this initial low-and-slow technique allowed the viscous BBQ sauce to work its magic all the way down to the bone. Mildly tart, but cloyingly sweet with deep notes and a fruity undertone, the sauce complemented the gaminess of the rabbit wonderfully.

To be quite honest, I was not sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Notes: Fresh rabbit, as well as a plethora of other local meats and dairy can be found at the UWI’s Faculty of Food and Agriculture (FFA) Field Station in Mt. Hope. The freshly harvested peppers and other produce are available at the FFA’s weekly produce sale on the St. Augustine Campus.

Inspiration: UWI TODAY and the eating local challenge from the Faculty of Food and Agriculture.

Style: Trinbagonian

Serves: 4

Estimated Prep Time: 30 minutes to rinse and season. 24-hour marinating time and about 65-70 minutes of cooking.


  • 3 lbs rabbit, cut into eighths
  • 1 cup roughly chopped chadon beni, divided into two
  • 1 head garlic, minced
  • 6-8 pimento peppers, finely chopped
  • 2 paprika peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups Matouk's tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. molasses
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup celery leaves/stems, chopped
  • salt and black pepper


  • Rinse rabbit pieces with cold running water. Pat dry. Season with salt, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, ginger, half the chadon beni, garlic, celery and thyme. Mix well and place in a covered bowl, refrigerate and allow to marinate for up to 24 hours.
  • For the sauce, pulse green pepper, pimento peppers, paprika and the remaining chadon beni in a food processor until chunky. Fold in ketchup, molasses and brown sugar. Add lime juice and mix thoroughly.
    Let sit for 10 minutes. Divide into two.
  • Remove meat from marinade, place into a large baking dish. Reserve remaining marinade.
  • Massage olive oil onto rabbit pieces, and arrange on the tray so that there is enough space between each piece.
  • Pour marinade in space between the pieces.
  • Liberally spoon BBQ sauce over each piece. Smother it.
  • Cover dish with foil and bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes at 325°F.
  • Remove foil, spoon on the remaining sauce and bake for another 25-30 minutes at 375°F.
  • Remove from oven and let sit in the dish for about 5-10 minutes before serving.