Roasted Rabbit with Fennel
The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynn Rossetto Kasper
2 1/2-2 3/4 lb rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
Seasoning the Rabbit
1 large clove of garlic (I used 4)
1 1/2 inch sprig of rosemary (I used 4)
1/2 t. salt (I'm sure I used a t. of sea salt)
1/8 t. pepper (you got it)
Cooking the Rabbit
2 bulbs fennel cut into 1 1/2 " wedges (I used one huge one)
1 large onion, cut into 1 1/2 " wedges
3 oz. pancetta, minced
3 cloves of garlic, split
1 t. fennel seeds
1/2 c. coarsely chopped fennel leaves
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 c. white wine
1/4 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock
The rabbit tastes best when seasoned one day ahead. I blended the first four ingredients in the food processor with a drizzle of olive oil to make a paste. Rub on the rabbit pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Two hours and 15 minutes before you would like to eat, preheat the oven to 350. use a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the rabbit pieces and onions and fennel. Scatter fennel, onion, pancetta, garlic, and fennel seeds around and between the pieces, and put half the fennel leaves on top. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast 30 minutes.
Add wine, and roast for another hour. Baste every 15 minutes with pan juices. If pan becomes too dry, add a little more wine or water. (Mine was nice and juicy.)
Raise the heat to 450. Cook 15 more minutes until rabbit becomes golden brown. Turn rabbit pieces, and roast another 15 minutes, basting once more. Veggies should be caramelized.
Transfer rabbit and vegetables to a heated platter and keep warm in the oven while you make a quick pan sauce. Set the roasting pan over two burners on high heat, and deglaze with the wine and stock. Scrape any brown pieces from pan and boil down liquid to about half. (Be careful of heat level if you are using a pyrex pan). Deglaze for 3-5 minutes. Scatter remaining fennel leaves over rabbit and serve sauce in gravy boat or bowl alongside rabbit.
I have wanted to cook a rabbit for years. We occasionally ate one when I was a child, and I have eaten coniglio countless times when in Italy. I have tasted several different variations in different regions of Italy. I recently found out that Bristol Farms has fresh rabbits on once a week. Brad and I stopped there, and he said, "I'll buy you a bunny to cook." I asked the butcher to cut it up for me, because i was slightly squeemish. There are dozens of bunnies in our neighborhood eating everyone's flowers. Not a day goes by that I don't see a rabbit on my front lawn. I am OK with the idea of eating the CONIGLIO raised for food. But I didn't want to be butchering a bunny in the kitchen with its cousins scampering across my patio. I figured, if the butcher cut it for me, it would look like chicken pieces, right?
They say timing is everything. The night we brought the CONIGLIO home from Bristol Farms, unfortunately there was a rather disgusting rabbit roadkill in front of the house next door. UGH! The scents of the roasted rabbit, caramelized onion and fennel and wine filled the kitchen. It was all worth it. FABULOUS.