Yesterday Nick and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary. Kind of. I made a nice dinner, and then we zoned out in front of a bunch of cooking shows on the PVR. This year has kind of been a wash, celebration-wise; we haven’t celebrated any of our milestones properly. Nick turned 30 on Friday and we didn’t have plans, and I was all-day morning-sick on my birthday in April. We’re thinking of putting off Christmas until January. It’s been a busy year.
Fortunately I am a bit of a hoarder, and I figured we’d be all out of energy right around now. I have stocked the freezer, fridge, and pantry with everything we’ll need to eat reasonably satisfying and healthy meals until my employment insurance kicks in, so I was able to put together a luscious rabbit cacciatore while the baby dozed and the cat napped.
Rabbit is a very lean meat and a great alternative to the usual chicken or pork. It’s also a sustainable alternative, as rabbits are small, plentiful, reproduce quickly, and do not have the same impact on the environment as larger or more industrially farmed meats. If you can’t find rabbit at your local market, ask your butcher.
I adapted this recipe from Simply Recipes, adding pancetta, more veggies, a spot of wine, and some different herbs and spices, and it was just fancy enough for an anniversary dinner, but easy enough to put together between feedings and phone calls and commercial breaks.
If you don’t have bunnies in your freezer, you could substitute six to eight chicken thighs for the rabbit pieces. Serve over pasta, polenta, or rice.
(Serves six to eight; adapted from Simply Recipes)
- 2 heads garlic plus 3 cloves
- 4 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 2- to 3-pound rabbit, cut into six or eight pieces
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 lb. pancetta, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 tbsp. capers, chopped
- 1 tsp. red chili flakes
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup red wine, such as Cabernet-Sauvignon
- 3 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes including juice)
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped parsley
Roast two cloves of garlic in an oven preheated to 350°F for 30 to 45 minutes until golden and tender.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Pour rabbit pieces, flour, and about a teaspoon each salt and pepper into a sturdy plastic bag. Hold or seal the top of the bag, and shake to coat rabbit.
Brown rabbit pieces in olive oil, then remove to a plate. Set aside.
Brown pancetta in same pan. Add onion, three chopped cloves of garlic, celery, and carrot, and cook for three minutes.
Add capers, chili flakes, rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Stir to coat pancetta and veggies, then add bell pepper and mushrooms. Cook an additional two minutes. Add wine and scrape browned bits off the bottom of the pan, then reduce heat to medium. Add tomatoes and roasted garlic and bay leaves. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed.
Add rabbit, pushing the pieces into the pot so that they are submerged. Cover, reduce to medium-low, and cook for 35 minutes, until rabbit is cooked and tender. Remove lid and simmer an additional 10 minutes to reduce sauce. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.