Coniglio alla cacciatora or Rabbit hunters style

Other wise known as lunch in Livorno.

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‘Rabbit

Lisa declared like a verbal stamp of the foot

‘Rabbit

She repeated, in exactly the same tone that she had announced she needed granita di limone about 30 minutes previously .

for lunch I want rabbit.’

We both came to a standstill in the middle of the noisy abundance, bussle and colour of Livorno market. Lisa rubbed her belly now unmistakably 5 months rounder

it wants rabbit too

I was not about to argue with either mother or bump- both clearly at the mercy of very specific and particular cravings – nor such a good idea, rabbit it was.

I find it a very pleasing fact that in Italy Coniglio (rabbit) is as unsurprising and commonplace as chicken on many menus and tables. Even more so that it is cooked and eaten with such passion, it’s lean, aromatic, flavoursome meat prized and appreciated as all good food should be.

I have barely, even among Italians who choose not to eat or dislike rabbit, heard a whisper of squeamishness, never mind horror or disapproval at it’s presence on the table. Actually that’s not true, I have heard disapproval, but that was everything to do with the suggestion the rabbit on the menu may have dubious – intensively reared – origins and nothing to do with it’s place on the menu.

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You often find rabbit cooked alla cacciatora (hunters style) which can be loosely – I say loosely there are as many versions as there are cooks – defined as;

First cooking the rabbit joints in padella, in a frying pan, and then the aromatic additions – vegetables, garlic, wine, herbs, olives, pancetta, capers, anchovies or vinegar – are all added later, then the joints are cooked covered to obtain a very dry result, the joints bathed in a very little concentrated sauce.

Our lunch was the simplest kind, the most basic of recipes taught to me by a friend who says a good rabbit needs nothing more than a clean shot, a good clean, a pan, a lid, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, white wine, a low flame, an hour or so, a table and a grateful stomach.

coniglio 2

You cut (or ask your butcher nicely) to cut your rabbit into pieces. First soak the rabbit pieces in a mixture of water and white wine vinegar for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the rabbit pieces, pat them dry carefully and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a deep frying pan with a tight fitting lid (wide enough to accommodate all the pieces of rabbit without them being too over crowded) warm the olive oil with a couple of plump cloves of garlic for a few minutes. Remove the garlic and set it aside, turn the flame to medium, once the pan is nice hot add the rabbit pieces and cook, turning frequently until they are nicely browned and golden – wear an apron as the oil splatters and spits somewhat.

Add the wine and return the garlic to the pan, allow the wine to sizzle and bubble energetically and then using a wooden spoon scape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any meaty goodness from the pan in into the sauce. Once a half the wine has evaporated away, turn the flame down, cover the pan and allow it so simmer for about 50 minutes stirring every now and then. If things look a little dry, which they shouldn’t if you didn’t evaporate away all the wine and the flame is low enough. add a little stock of plain water to the pan.

coniglio lunch

We made a warm salad as well, rocket, red onion and fresh piattelli beans

like fresh cannelini… but better

said the formidable lady behind the handsome and popular market stall which bustled with Livornese preparing for the weekend.

A good salad, dressed with a bit of coarse salt, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, very nice with the rabbit.

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The best rabbits are wild ones who live on herbs and woodland shrubs, the meat is tougher but more flavoursome.You need to become or make friends with a hunter with good shot to obtain one of these, Next best thing is a decent butcher who has a reliable source.

As I said before this is the simplest of recipes and one to be practised and played with and elaborated, the additions of rosemary, pancetta and olives are worth trying.

Coniglio all cacciatora

serves 4

  • 1 rabbit (about 1,3kg – 1.5kg), cleaned, cut into about 14 pieces, washed.
  • 1 litre water mix with 175ml white wine vinegar for soaking
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 plump cloves of garlic peeled and gently squashed with the back of a knife
  • 200ml dry white wine

First wash in fast running water and then soak the rabbit pieces in the mixture of water and white wine vinegar for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the rabbit pieces very carefully, pat then dry carefully and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a deep frying pan with a tight fitting lid (wide enough to accommodate all the pieces of rabbit without them being too over crowded) warm the olive oil with a couple of plump cloves of garlic for a few minutes.

Remove the garlic and set it aside, turn the flame to medium once it is modestly hot add the rabbit and cook, turning frequently until they are nicely browned and golden.

Add the wine and return the garlic to the pan, allow the wine to sizzle and bubble energetically and then using a wooden spoon scape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any meaty goodness from the pan into the sauce.

Once a half the wine has evaporated away, turn the flame down, cover the pan and allow it so simmer for about 45 minutes stirring every now and then. If things look a little dry, which they shouldn’t if you didn’t evaporate away all the wine and the flame is low enough. add a little stock or plain water to the pan.

Allow the pan to rest for at least 10 minutes and stir the contents of the pan so each piece is coated with the thick sauce before serving.

5 Comments

Filed under food, meat, rabbit, recipes

5 responses to “Coniglio alla cacciatora or Rabbit hunters style

  1. The photography in this post is just stunning. And the food looks wonderful

  2. ooh, I love rabbit! I don’t make it nearly enough!! And that salad looks perfect:) The color of that table is beautiful. I imagine it nestled along the shore of the mediterranean where you can hear the waves gently lapping while you eat your lovely meal….

    I think I need a vacation!

  3. hey rachel! this post really did me in. this really does seem like the perfect lunch to me. i absolutely adore rabbit. when we put our first rabbit recipe on our blog a few years ago (maybe last summer?), I got some great response, but also got alot of really nasty responses (mainly from the enemy – vegans). alot of people were just plain mean. whatever… i’m over it. it just made me wonder why americans are so freaking weird about stuff that people have been eating for ages. just had another run in about veal liver (did you know veal is the BABY of a cow!!!?!??!?!?!??!?!!!!!!! how could you !!??!?!??!). anywho’s… i love this meal. i love this salad. i love italy. god, get me on a freaking plane NOW.

  4. I’ve eaten rabbit before, but after reading your post I don’t really think I have eaten rabbit before. Not any that have feasted on woodland herbs and shrubs. Echoing weareneverfull, “…get me on a freaking plane NOW.”

  5. We eat rabbit frequently. My boyfriend’s mother makes it simply with olive oil, garlic and parsley. Sometimes she throw in some green and red peppers or a little tomato. It’s delicious.

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