Thursday, October 28, 2010

Braised Rabbit Stew That'll Make You Swoon

I'm sure you've noticed the peppering of recipes from my recent New York Culinary Experience weekend. The recipes and their final products were just too good not to share with you, so here's another one: a recipe for braised rabbit stew with nicoise olives and rosemary.

Learning how to make this dish in Chef Marco Canora's class, it introduced me to a lot of new techniques, including how to break down a rabbit.  Of course you don't have to do this at home and can substitute the rabbit with something more common such as chicken, lamb, pork or even beef.  But the rabbit was really something special.  The meat was strong in flavor yet tender in texture and after it was all cooked, it had the most deliciously fragrant broth that resembled a hearty stew. 

This dish is excellent for cold fall and winter nights and goes well with any kind of starchy side such as potatoes, white or brown rice or even homemade gnocchi, which we made in class. More about that next time...

Rabbit Stew with Nicoise Olives and Rosemary (serves 4)

2 small rabbits, cut into 10 pieces each (you can substitute with other protein of your choice)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 7 tbs freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1 medium onion, peeled and minced
1 carrot, peeled and minced
1 celery stalk, minced
2 tbs of tomato paste
1 bunch of rosemary sprigs, tied together
About 5 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 cup of Nicoise olives, pitted if desired

Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper.  Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet, about 3 tbs, over medium high heat.  Working in batches, brown the rabbit pieces, about 3 minutes on each side, then set aside in a bowl.

When all of the meat is browned, add the wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up the fond (browned bits) with a wooden spoon.  Allow the wine to simmer for a minute or two, then pour it over the browned rabbit and reserve.

Wipe out the skillet.  Add the remaining 4 tbs of oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot and celery.  Fry the soffritto (onion, carrots, celery), stirring frequently and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent burning, until the vegetables soften and color, about 10 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and rosemary.  Stir to coat the vegetables until the paste darkens, about 5 minutes.

Return the rabbit and the wine to the pan, lower the heat to medium, and stir to mix.  Cook the rabbit, stirring occasionally, until its juices release, about 10 minutes.

Add enough broth to come a little less than halfway up the rabbit pieces, about 2 cups.  Simmer the rabbit partially covered, turning it in the pan and basting it occasionally, until the pan is almost dry, about 15 minutes.  Add more broth, about 1 cup, and continue simmering and basting the rabbit, adding a little broth whenever the pan looks dry (expect to add 1/2 cup about every 15 minutes).  Stew until the rabbit is almost tender, about 1 hour.

Flip the rabbit pieces over and add the olives.  Continue adding the broth a little at a time and simmer until the rabbit is fully tender, about 15 minutes more (if the meat pulls easily from the leg bone the rabbit is done).  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 5 more minutes to allow the seasoning to permeate.  Serve warm in shallow bowls. 



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