Braised Rabbit with Black Olives
The Italian countryside springs to life in this rustic dish of braised rabbit, complete with Barolo wine and olives from Liguria.
- Rabbits - two, 2-1/2-pound rabbits
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Canola oil - about 6 tablespoons
- Onions - 1 cup, coarsely chopped
- Barolo or other dry red wine - about 2-1/4 cups
- Tomatoes - 4 large, coarsely chopped
- Garlic Cloves - 2, chopped
- Olive Oil - 3 tablespoons
- Ligurian or other black salt-cured olives - 8 ounces, pitted and chopped
- Fresh rosemary sprigs - 6
To prepare the rabbit: Remove the legs from the rabbits and remove the thigh bones, leaving the leg bones intact. Cut down the spine of each rabbit and cut and pull the loin from each side of the back. Coarsely chop the remainder of the carcasses and set them aside. Season meat with salt and pepper.
In a large saute pan over high heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the canola oil and saute the legs and loins until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add the chopped carcass pieces to the pan and saute until well browned, about 10 minutes. Remove the legs and loins, and continue to brown the carcass pieces for another 10 minutes. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they are also well browned, about 15 minutes. This thorough browning will create a rich, deep flavor for the sauce. After each phase of the browning process, add a small amount of the wine to the pan and stir to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook over high heat to reduce the liquid.
Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan, along with about 1/2 cup of the wine, and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Return the legs and loins to the pan and add enough of the wine to half-cover the meat with liquid. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes. Remove the legs and loin from the pan and keep warm, then strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve. Add more wine or reduce the sauce as necessary to make 1 cup of sauce.
In another large saute pan or skillet over high heat, combine the olive oil, meat, olives, and two of the rosemary sprigs. Add 1/4 cup of the wine and cook until the mixture is warmed through and the flavors are blended.
To serve: Place 1 rabbit leg on each serving plate and spoon some of the sauce over it. Slice 1 loin piece diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices and fan them around the edge of the plate. Garnish each serving with a rosemary sprig.