Coniglio al Balsamico

I don’t know what came over me. When I do my weekend grocery shopping, I usually let the items in season dictate the menu, but once in a while, my curiosity takes over. I’ve come home with some pretty odd things – barnacles, razor clams, sea beans, fiddlehead ferns and wild asparagus are some recent purchases. (Luckily, my non-foodie husband is pretty tolerant and open to my experiments.) Yesterday, I wandered into Magnani Poultry and picked up a rabbit. I’d meant to get some kind of fish from Monterey Fish, but when I saw it under the glass butcher case, I had to try to cook rabbit. Maybe it because I’ve been reading Heat, and his description of a rabbit dish, done three ways (confit, sauteed and grilled) on top of dandelion greens titillated me. However, I had no inkling of what sort of recipe I would use, and when the butcher asked me how I would like it carved up, I didn’t know what to say. “Uh, four pieces,” I said, guessing. As it turns out, rabbit is usually cut into six pieces. Judy Rodgers, in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, lays out a complicated method of separating the cuts, because they have “very different types of muscle” that cook differently. It was too late for me – my rabbit was already quartered into bony chunks. Rabbit is very lean, and has no skin to prevent the flesh from drying out, so I decided a simple braise would work the best. Though I don’t have the Babbo cookbook, I have the next best (or possibly even better) thing, Lidia Bastianich’s recipe for rabbit braised in balsamic vinegar. I decided to marry some of Judy Rodgers’ methods with Lidia’s. Judy says to briefly cure the rabbit by sprinkling a pretty generous portion of salt on it (plus thyme and crushed black peppercorns) and leaving it at room temperature for an hour, then rinsing off the salt and soaking it in milk for another hour. You can cure the meat a few days ahead of time; just make sure you rinse off the milk before storing it in the fridge. I cured it yesterday. When it came time to cook, (per Lidia) I blotted the moisture off the rabbit, and dipped it in flour. I browned the pieces on both sides in olive oil w/garlic cloves, about eight minutes total, then added a couple tablespoons of butter, thyme and half a chopped onion (Lidia says to use sage and omits the onion), turning the pieces of meat in the butter for a few minutes. I poured a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in the pot, and allowed it to reduce until nearly evaporated, then added about a cup of pilsner beer, and let it reduce for ten minutes. Then, I added enough stock to barely cover the pieces, and let it simmer for about 40 minutes. During the last ten minute, I removed the lid to let the sauce reduce and thicken. I served this on top of mashed potatoes with sauteed stinging nettles, and poured the sauce on top. Mmmmm. My dinner guests are now rabbit converts.

3 responses to “Coniglio al Balsamico

  1. Connie, I can honestly say that I’ve shared your desire to cook rabbit – but haven’t had the nerve or the opportunity to do it yet.
    I nearly bought a live lobster this weekend though! LOL

  2. you are such a culinary adventuress, connie! applause to you for cooking rabbit. look at how “heat” is inspiring all of us!

  3. Ain’t that the truth Christine! (wink) You’re the only one so far who knows the big secret I’m going to reveal on September 1st as part of the RCE Book Club update! 🙂

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