I don't usually repeat recipe posts, but this one is so delicious, it is worth repeating. It was my turn to post a favorite recipe for "Sunday Slow Suppers", so here is one of our favorite meals:
Until I found this recipe in The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynn Rossetto Kasper, most of my meals involving a rabbit had been eaten in Italy, or as a child when my mom cooked rabbit about once a year. In Tuscany, I have had rabbit cooked with a variety of flavors, roasted, fried, or in a ragu.
When I first made this, I bought a whole rabbit at Bristol Farms, and had the butcher cut it into pieces for me. It looked less like a bunny that way, yet I knew it would be delicious. This recipe is also wonderful with chicken thighs, and has become a standard at out house, as we also love fennel in any shape of form. Try it. Your kitchen will smell like heaven!
One 2 1/2-2 3/4 lb rabbit, cut into 8 pieces (or 8 chicken thighs with skin)
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.
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
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.
This is GREAT with chicken thighs, so if you cannot deal with rabbit, try it with chicken, but PLEASE leave the skin on. It will be crispy, crunchy and oh so delicious!