Rabbit Ragù

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So a little disclaimer about this post: I’m not really a fan of rabbit. It’s not that I object to the taste of it. It’s just that…there’s history.

Fresh rabbit cooked with farmers' market fresh vegetables.

When I was a little girl–about seven or eight years old–my parents drove down the street from my Wisconsin home to a nearby far. There my father purchased two bunny rabbits and brought them home. In our backyard he built a hutch from two-by-fours and chicken wire and the rabbits moved in. One was a black rabbit with sleek ears, and I named him Checkers. The second rabbit was a brown bunny, her fur almost like a tabby cat’s, save for a puff of white fur that served as her tail. I called her Cottonball.

My siblings and I would go visit the hutch regularly and drop in offerings of carrots and lettuce for them to eat. Eventually, the bunny family expanded and there were a dozen tiny little bunnys–black, white, and brown–hopping around. For my birthday party that winter, I brought in a box of bunnies into the house and let them hop around inside to entertain myself and my friends.

But then one day I went out to the hutch and Checkers and Cottonball were gone. The bunnies were all there, but where where the original two? I ran inside searching for my parents, but the search ended quickly when I walked into the kitchen and saw my grandmother hard at work at making dinner.

One plus one equals two.

Some people don’t eat vension because of Bambi. I didn’t eat meat for weeks after that incident, and for the next twenty-two years, I never had any desire to eat rabbit. But things change, and, the boy (now the fiance) does enjoy rabbit.

So if you survive this story of childhood woe and are still interested in this recipe, continue reading!

The local farmers’ market has been offering up fresh rabbit as of late, so during last week’s trip there we got one fresh one to go. Because of the aforementioned aversion to eating rabbit, I really didn’t know any recipes offhand, so I went to my go-to website, Epicurious, and found this recipe for rabbit ragu, and it turned out pretty good!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 (1/4-lb) piece pancetta (Italian unsmoked cured bacon), cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 (3-lb) rabbit, boned by butcher and meat cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 lb boned)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 cup light dry red wine such as Pinot Noir
  • 1 (14-oz) can Italian plum tomatoes in juice, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse gray sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet (2 inches deep) over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.
  2. Add sage and rosemary and cook, stirring, 30 seconds.
  3.  Add rabbit and cook, stirring occasionally, until rabbit is no longer pink on outside, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5.  Add wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Add tomatoes, sea salt, and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

Please note, that when I made the recipe I did not have any pancetta or bacon, so I just skipped it and went straight to the step with herbs. Also, if you have fresh tomatoes…use fresh tomatoes, which I did because it is summer and produce is bountiful!

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