A rack of roasted rabbit on a grill is in the foreground, with an inset of Chef Daryl 'DC' Cooper in the lower left corner Roast Rabbit, A New Tradition?
Award-winning Chef Daryl 'DC' Cooper shares his barbecue rabbit recipe as an alternative centerpiece to a Thanksgiving turkey. He's making it himself for the family this year. Try more of his cuisine at Jimmy Pearl's Street Shack in Charlotte, NC. (Image by Keith Warther/Courier)

Acclaimed Charlotte chefs Julia Simon and Daryl Cooper offer their Turkey Day alternatives to home cooks who want to serve something other than the big bird.

While turkey is the traditional star of the Thanksgiving table, it’s easily outshone by perfectly moist dressing and savory deviled eggs. Plenty of other dishes can take the place of the Big Bird on the table. Pro tip: If you do change up the Thanksgiving lineup, consider preparing a small turkey breast anyway for those night-of or next-day turkey sandwiches. Hey, we can’t do away with all the traditions! 

From Chef Daryl “DC” Cooper of Jimmy Pearls Street Shack, recently named Charlotte’s Best Food Truck by Unpretentious Palate magazine, comes Bugs Bunny’s Last Carrot. DC and business partner Oscar Johnson have perfected this sweet and savory barbecued rabbit dish that draws on their native Virginia roots. 

Bugs Bunny’s Last Carrot 

1 whole rabbit, split through ribcage and flattened 

Brine Recipe:

1/2 c salt  

1/4 c sugar 

2 garlic cloves, smashed 

1 bay leaf 

1 qts of water

BBQ Rub Recipe: 

1 T salt 

1 T black pepper 

2 T Smoked paprika 

1 T Onion powder 

1 T garlic powder 

1 T brown sugar 

1 T cayenne pepper 

1/2 c oil

  1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a pot and bring it to a simmer. Then, quickly cool the brine by adding an extra quart of very cold water or ice. 
  2. Pour brine over rabbit and let it sit in the refrigerator OVERNIGHT. 
  3. Remove rabbit from brine and pat dry. 
  4. Combine all ingredients of BBQ rub with oil until pasty.
  5. Rub seasoning liberally inside and outside the rabbit and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. 
  6. Prepare your grill at around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  7. On the hottest part of the grill, grill each side of the rabbit for about 5-8 minutes each, making sure it’s getting good color. Char is great, but don’t overdo it.
  8. Transfer the rabbit to the cooler side of the grill and allow it to cook until the legs reach an internal temperature of 155 degrees. 
  9. Remove rabbit, wrap it in foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes away from the heat.

Enjoy alone or with more barbecue sauce, and serve with a side of roasted carrots. That’s all, folks!

A Vegan Option

Dilemma: You’re hosting the big dinner for mixed company–that is, vegans and meat eaters. You want to serve your restricted guests more than a sad salad and iced tea, but you also want something to titillate the meat lovers at the table. 

Look no further than this curried shepherd’s pie recipe, provided by Chef Julia Simon. Simon is the celebrated mind behind @Nourish and @PlantJoy, which was crowned Charlotte’s Best Vegan Restaurant by Unpretentious Palate magazine this month. Her vegetable-based dish is hearty enough to sit front and center and satisfy. The comfort of root vegetables is balanced by bright seasoning and a pretty presentation. You won’t even miss the turkey! 

pie
Chef Julia Simon developed the recipe for this warm, spicy curried shepherd’s pie, which features a balance of quality ingredients and flavors sure to have even carnivores reaching for second helpings. Bonus, it’s 100% vegan and even gluten-free, and suitable for almost everyone at the table.

Curried Shepherd’s Pie with Smashed Root Veggies and Orange-Coconut Gravy

Serves 6-8

Root vegetable topper:

1 lb carrots, peeled, chopped         

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped         

1 lb white potatoes, peeled, chopped                      

6 cloves garlic, preferably oasted      

½  cup coconut milk            

2 tbsp miso (optional, but if omitted, add salt)                      

For the casserole:

1  cup brown or green lentils, picked over and washed

2  cups toasted sunflower seeds, walnuts, or pecans chopped or pulsed in a food processor        

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp coconut oil, divided                                                        

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced                                                                     

1 medium onion, sliced                                                                                                      

2 tbsp Madras or other high-turmeric content curry powder, toasted

½ tsp crushed red pepper                                                            

6 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                                  

1 cup scallions, minced

½  cup golden raisins

1 tsp white pepper

1 cup frozen peas   

For the gravy:

¼ cup coconut oil                                                                

¼ cup white rice flour (or all purpose flour, if gluten is not a concern)                                                

½  cup coconut aminos or well-flavored vegetable stock

1 cup coconut milk                                                             

¼ cup orange juice

1 tsp smoked salt    

Preheat oven to 350℉. Set two pots of water on the stove to boil. Add chopped carrot, sweet potato, and white potato to one pot and simmer for 12-14 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain thoroughly and let cool down in a bowl. In the other pot, add lentils and cook 18-20 minutes, stirring thoroughly until lentils are soft. Drain if necessary, toss with chopped sunflower seeds, and set aside.

Blend remaining topper ingredients and add to hot vegetables. Using a blender or food processor, puree cooked carrot, sweet potato, and white potato with flavored milk until smooth and spreadable. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat coconut oil over medium high heat until it shimmers. Sautécarrots and onion until soft.. Cut off the heat, then stir in garlic, red curry flakes, curry powder, scallions, white pepper and peas. Grease a 9×13 baking dish. Transfer sauteed vegetables to baking dish and set aside. 

Wipe out the saute pan and heat remaining coconut oil over medium high heat. Carefully add white rice flour and immediately whisk. Cook roux 5-6 minutes, whisking constantly, until slightly darker in color and fragrant. Remove pan from heat and whisk in coconut aminos (or stock), coconut milk, orange juice and salt. Return to heat, then cook 2 minutes more, until sauce thickens. Transfer to casserole dish with sauteed vegetables and toss to mix. Add lentil and sunflower mix and toss again. Smooth until level.

Working carefully, dollop root vegetable topper with 1/2 cup measures onto top of filling. Use a pastry spreader or spatula to carefully spread mash in an even coat over lentils and vegetables so that no veggies are visible. Transfer to oven and bake 30-35 minutes until edges bubble. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Note: For this recipe, all coconut milk is full fat and coconut oil is unrefined. Coconut aminos can be found in all health food stores and some standard grocery stores.