Kouneli Stifado

Rabbit Stew with Pearl Onions in Two-Wine Sauce

STIFADO, which has its origins on Corfu, is an intensely flavored stew, usually of rabbit or hare, cooked slowly in both sweet and dry red wine with tomatoes and pearl onions. Seasoned with bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, the fragrant stew can be served over homemade egg noodles, Pasta Squares, fettuccine or tagliatelle. It is also good with mashed potatoes or Polenta with Currants and Onions.

This recipe is adapted from Jim Botsacos’s version of the classic dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 3½-to-4-pound rabbit, cut into 4 leg/thigh joints and the loin, with the loin tied (have the butcher do this, or purchase the rabbit in pieces from a specialty market)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced red onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • cups dry red wine, such as Cabernet
  • Sauvignon
  • 1 cup sweet red wine, such as
  • Mavrodaphne or sweet Marsala, or more if needed
  • 1 16-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups Chicken Stock
  • Bouquet garni: 1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves and 1 allspice berry, tied up in a piece of cheesecloth with kitchen twine
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound pearl onions, blanched and peeled, or cups frozen
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ cup water

For Optional Garnish

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2–3 tablespoons diced and drained tomatoes

Method

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Season the rabbit pieces on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven and cook the rabbit, in batches if necessary, over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to a platter and discard the oil.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the red onions until wilted and lightly colored, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Pour in both wines and boil over medium-high heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the pot and stir to combine, then return the rabbit to the pot with any juices from the platter, pour in the stock and season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Cover, place the pot in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1 teaspoon of the butter in a medium skillet, add the pearl onions, sprinkle with the sugar and sauté, over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the onions are golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Add the water and cook for 10 minutes, or until the onions are easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the heat.

Add the onions to the Dutch oven and cook for 30 minutes more, or until the rabbit is tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer the rabbit to a warm serving platter.

Discard the bouquet garni and bring the cooking juices to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in the remaining 1 teaspoon butter. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding salt, pepper and/or a little more sweet wine if necessary. Ladle the sauce over the rabbit and serve.

For the Garnish, if Using

In a small skillet, heat about 1 inch of oil until it simmers. Add the sliced onion and fry until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Garnish the rabbit with the crispy onion rings and diced tomatoes.

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