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Chicken-Fried Rabbit

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2 teaspoons minced, fresh thyme leaves

Black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 rabbit, cut into serving pieces

2 cups buttermilk, more if needed

3 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

4 to 6 cups lard

1 large onion, peeled and sliced into thick rings

In a deep, medium bowl, combine the kosher salt, lemon zest and juice, minced thyme leaves, several grinds of the black pepper and the garlic to form a rub. Add the rabbit pieces to bowl, massaging rub all over each piece. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least several hours.

The next morning, pour the buttermilk over rabbit pieces and gently toss to coat; buttermilk should barely cover rabbit; if not, add just enough to roughly cover. Cover bowl again and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Season the flour by placing in a large bag, bowl or baking dish with the table salt and 11/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper. Taste flour and adjust seasoning if desired.

About 1 hour before frying, remove bowl from refrigerator. Remove each piece of rabbit from buttermilk, shaking gently to remove any excess buttermilk (do not attempt to dry pieces). Dredge each piece in seasoned flour mixture, coating completely. Shake to remove excess flour and set pieces aside on a rack to dry and warm to room temperature.

While pieces are resting, place about 4 cups of the lard in a large, heavy skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Melt lard; it should come up about 1/2 to 3/4 inch up the side of the pan (melt additional lard if needed). When lard is just melted, add the onion rings and continue heating lard until onion is caramelized and lard is hot. Remove onion (discard it or save for another use) and check temperature of lard; a thermometer should read 350 F.

Gently place rabbit pieces in lard, being careful not to crowd. Lower temperature to 325 F and fry pieces on each side until crisp and golden-brown and meat is firm and opaque, for about 5 minutes for smaller pieces and 7 to 8 for larger. Flip pieces over and fry on other side until done (a thermometer inserted in meat should read 160 F). Remove pieces from hot oil and drain, skin-side up, on crumpled paper towels. Repeat until all of pieces are fried.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.