Cottontail rabbits live wild throughout most of the U.S. and are a favorite prey of small game hunters. Cottontail rabbit meat is nutritious, containing less fat than chicken, turkey, beef, pork or lamb. Use moist-cooking methods for tender, flavorful meat because rabbit meat has naturally low moisture content. Rabbit meat can replace chicken in any chicken recipe, including recipes for cold cooked chicken. For a simple, hot rabbit dish, try a fricassee.
Cut the rabbit into serving pieces. One adult rabbit should yield 2 to 2 1/2 lbs. of bone-in meat, or about four servings. Dust the rabbit pieces with flour.
Heat a large skillet to melt 1/4 cup butter or 1/4 cup olive oil. Place the floured rabbit pieces into the hot skillet and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Fry the meat over medium-high heat until it is browned on all sides. Move the meat to edges of the skillet.
Cook the diced onion in the center of the skillet until it turns translucent. Pour in 1-1/2 cups of red wine.
Cut the celery into 1-inch pieces. Tie the celery, lemon, parsley and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and place it in the skillet liquid. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the liquid has reduced slightly.
Remove the rabbit from the skillet and place it on a warm serving platter. Remove and discard the seasoning bag. Cut together 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. flour until crumbly, and add to the wine liquid in the skillet. Stir constantly until the sauce bubbles and thickens.
Pour the wine sauce over the rabbit and garnish with fresh parsley sprigs.