Saturday, 21 November 2015

Follow the White Rabbit

Coniglio alla Cacciatora in Bianco
"Hunters Style" Rabbit in White Wine

What's up Doc? Or- what's for dinner to be more to the point! Why, yes indeed- it is rabbit! But not a wascally cartoon wabbit- a real life, honest to goodness, rabbit dish, the way a hunter, or farmer might prepare it in Sicily. 

I tried rabbit cooked this way in Piazza Armerina, Sicily, the very first time and to this day it is still my favorite preparation. The herbs and vegetables that go with it have the perfect and authentic taste of the countryside and especially of the countryside of the South.

It is a very humble, simple and unpretentious dish and one that is easily made, all in one pot... one of those things that we all love at this time of year! And it may not be the prettiest of dishes... but it certainly is one of the tastiest!

To accompany my little front legs of rabbit (I had enjoyed the more substantial rear legs with company on a previous occasion), I had 1 onion, 2 small stalks of celery, 2 carrots, a few small potatoes, and some green olives and capers. But this is not one of those dishes where you need to be measuring and weighing your ingredients, obviously!

I seasoned with bay leaf, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and used a little olive oil and a sprinkle of flour to brown the rabbit off at the beginning of cooking. And a couple of splashes of white wine- one for the rabbit- and one for the cook! So as you can see- few and simple ingredients.

The reason any dish of this kind tastes particularly good, is that the vegetables cook along with the meat and soak up all of the good flavors as you go... and at the end, they are soft and tender and a perfectly delicious side dish to the meat itself.

I began by browning off the rabbit, which I first sprinkled with flour, in a little olive oil. I seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked it until it was golden brown.

I then deglazed my pan (or clay tajine in my case) with white wine and stirred up all of the good juices that had accumulated at the bottom during frying.

Next, all of the vegetables went into the pan too- the potatoes were very small and so I left them whole, but the carrot and celery I cut down to lengths of around 2-3 inches. The important thing is to leave the vegetables in rather large pieces, as they will be cooking together with the rabbit and you do not want the pieces to be so small that they overcook before the meat is ready.

I added enough water to the pan to just cover the rabbit, added the bay leaves, plenty of thyme and a little salt and pepper, reduced the temperature to a low simmer and let it sit and stew away for about 1 hour. But I did give things an occasional stir, just to make sure the potatoes got flipped over and cooked through evenly.

After about 1 hour, everything was lovely and tender and delicious... but not delicious enough! So this was the time to add the olives and capers, to give everything that great, country richness. They need to wait till the end to be added, otherwise they will cook down to nothing, which would be a shame. This way, they need only cook for around 5 minutes to come up to temperature, to develop their full aroma- and to be the finishing touch before serving!

Tender, succulent and delicious- Need I say more?!?

This really is a little taste of the countryside, the way I got to know and love in Sicily... and I hope that you might give it a try and grow to love it too!

A perfect little feast!

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