Italian is one of my favorite cuisines. The simplicity of the recipes really let inherent flavor of high-quality ingredients shine through. Pasture-raised meats, fresh local vegetables, and a smattering of unique herbs and spices are the real stars of an Italian recipe.
Rabbit Cacciatore is a time-tested way of preparing rabbit. The familiar flavors in this recipe make it a great way to introduce friends, family, or guests who have never eaten rabbit before to the best of this tender, unique meat. Cacciatore involves more effort than a crock-pot recipe, but it’s well worth it. There are many different variations of the Cacciatore recipe, making it easy to adjust the ingredients based on what you happen to have in your own kitchen.
- 1 Rabbit, 2.5-3.5 lbs (or 1/2 of a 4+ lb rabbit)
- 1/2 cup White Wine Vinegar (you can substitute with Rice Wine or Apple Cider Vinegar if necessary)
- 1/8 cup salt
- 6 tbsp Olive Oil
- 6oz tomato paste (or 1 cup of fresh tomatoes for best flavor)
- 1 cup Rabbit or Chicken Stock
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 1 cup Dry White Wine
- 1 head of Garlic, peeled and chopped
- ~2 cups of your choice of seasonal vegetables (I went with onion, carrot, and celery for a classic mirepoix, though fresh mushrooms and/or eggplant would have been a great addition)
- ~1 tsp each of your choice of herbs (I went with fresh Parsley, dried Rosemary, and dried Bay Leaf)
- 1/4-1/2 tsp of Red Pepper Flakes (Optional. I went with Italian Calabrian Peppers from Arome)
- Black Pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp Capers
- Brine Rabbit 8+ hrs (or overnight): Don’t skip this step! Brining is essential to keep the rabbit pieces moist and tender. Mix 1/8 cup Salt with 3.5 cups of warm water and mix until the salt is dissolved. Then add 1/2 cup of White Wine Vinegar. I like to brine my rabbit right in the bag, since I get better coverage that way and can use less brine than filling an entire bowl or dish. You can alternatively piece the rabbit up first and then double the brine recipe for a larger dish or bowl.
- Piece the Rabbit: Check out this excellent guide on how to cut up a rabbit — I don’t usually bother to remove the silver skin, but that’s a matter of personal preference. Either way, a sharp knife or a pair of poultry shears make this easy. If you are cooking a particularly large rabbit (3.5+ lbs), you may want to use only half of the rabbit for this recipe. I used just the legs from my 4lb rabbit and it turned out just right, saving the loin back for a different recipe later in the week.
- Coat the Rabbit and pan-fry: In a mixing bowl, toss your rabbit pieces in the flour until they are generously coated, and then sprinkle black pepper over them. Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a cast iron dutch oven or cast-iron pan (I really recommend cast iron with a lid for this recipe) on medium heat on the stovetop. Lightly brown half of the pieces of rabbit on each side, ~10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate, and then brown the remaining pieces.
- Saute Vegetables: Add your vegetables to the pan along with an additional 1 tbsp olive oil, and cook until they are still lightly crispy but browned. Add the Garlic towards the end, cooking for just over 1min.
- Add Sauce: Add 1 cup dry white wine to to the vegetables, stirring until the wine has cooked down. At this point, add your tomatoes, broth, and herbs & spices, stirring together and bringing to a bubble.
- Add Rabbit pieces and cook: Place your browned rabbit pieces into the sauce, cover with a lid, and lightly simmer on low heat for 1.5-2 hrs, or until the rabbit is tender and comes away from the bone. If you are using a dutch oven, you can alternatively put it in the oven at 250F to ensure low-temp cooking that results in tender meat. Flip and turn the pieces once or twice during this long, low simmer. Use a meat thermometer to check that the rabbit has reached 165F.
- Fry Capers: As the rabbit finishes cooking, dry 2 tbsp capers in a paper towel, and then pan-fry them in 2tbsp olive oil until lightly browned.
- Serve: Serve pieces of rabbit from the pan, spoon sauce over the top, and garnish with fried capers. Enjoy!
This recipe adapted from The Oregonian’s Rabbit Cacciatore