Yes, you read that correctly. I ate Flopsy. Or possibly Mopsy. Or maybe it was Cottontail. I wasn’t acquainted with the rabbit before it arrived in my freezer. If the thought of eating rabbit disturbs you, then now would be a good time to move on. Or you could read the recipe and substitute a small chicken. It would definitely work. If you’re vegetarian, you might even be able to work out a version based on a really meaty kind of mushroom, such as Portobello.
Me? I’m sticking with the original and thanking my lucky stars that Mr. Twistie was out of town this week so I could have my rabbit in peace. Mr. Twistie is not down with Cottontail consumption. That meant all the more for me, and can I just say YUM! Really, even if you don’t do rabbit, do consider adapting it for something you do eat, because this recipe is Heaven on a plate in a big way.
Where did I find this marvel? In Gourmet Today, edited by Ruth Reichl of the late, lamented Gourmet magazine. This is a brilliant combination cook book and home hernia kit. The weight is put to good use, too. Not only are there literally hundreds of great recipes, but dozens and dozens of useful kitchen tips as well. Trust me, this one is well worth the price of admission.
And now, without further ado, on to the recipe.
1 3lb Rabbit cut into six pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Cup plus 3 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I’ll use at least three cloves next time, but I love garlic the way Plummy loves a certain Archbishop. Your mileage may vary.)
1 Turkish bay leaf or 2 California ones (As it turned out, I didn’t realize I was out of bay leaves, so I did without. Next time I’ll add it back in, because I can taste in my mind what it would add, and it’s good…but the dish was incredible even without it.)
3/4 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 Cup dry white wine (not finely chopped)
1 28oz. can whole tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped.
1/2 Cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (I saved the bunny bones so that I can make rabbit stock to use next time, but Swanson’s low sodium chicken tasted just fine)
1lb Orecchiette pasta, fresh or dried (I used dried, but next time when I’m not recovering from the World’s Snottiest Cold, I’ll probably be more in a mood to try my hand at making a bajillion fiddly little pieces of fresh pasta)
Accompaniment: finely grated Grana Padano cheese (I just happened, quite gleefully, to have some on hand, but I feel very sure Parmesan would do perfectly well in a pinch)
Pat rabbit dry and rub with 1/2tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper (I didn’t measure, I just guesstimated by eye). Heat 1/4 Cup oil in a deep, 12-inch skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown rabbit in 2 batches, turning once, about seven minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate, reserving fat in skillet.
Add remaining 3Tblsp of oil to skillet and heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, and 1/4 tsp (again, I guesstimated, and you should feel free to adjust to your personal taste) salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden brown, about 8 – 10 minutes.
Add wine. Bring to boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, stock, and 1/4tsp salt and bring to a boil. Return rabbit, along with the juices accumulated on the plate, to the skillet and nestle into sauce. Cover and simmer, stirring and turning rabbit occasionally, until both saddle pieces are tender, about 15 minutes.
Transfer saddle pieces to a plate, then continue to simmer the legs until tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the legs to the plate, set skillet aside.
When rabbit is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones and shred. Return meat, along with any juices, to the skillet. Add 1/4tsp salt and 1/4tsp pepper(taste the sauce first to make sure whether it really needs this addition), and bring to a boil. Discard bay leaves.
Meanwhile, cook the orcchiette. Bring salted water to a boil, add pasta, boil until pasta is al dente, drain.
Move pasta to a serving dish, add sauce, stir to combine. Or you can do what I did and just put the pasta back in the pot, and stir the sauce into it right there. Serve with the cheese.
Serves four as a main dish. The sauce can be made up to three days in advance.