Fricasseed Rabbit with Yellow or Red Peppers

Coniglio in Umido coi Peperoni

Italians market not as a chore, but for the pleasure of it, and like all social pleasures, it establishes an immediate relationship between those engaged in a similar pursuit. I was traveling in Piedmont, browsing in one of Alba’s marvelous food shops, and soon I was having a warm conversation about cooking with a woman who was there to decide what to make for dinner. When she decided on a rabbit, of course I had to know how she was going to use it.

After she good-naturedly explained the procedure in that shorthand that Italian cooks use, ignoring measurements and taking the basics for granted, she added, “I doubt you’ll find rabbit done this way in any of the restaurants you are going to. My mother was the only one I knew who made it and she got it from her mother.” It’s a lovely, homey dish; the meat stays very juicy; and the peppers practically dissolve, turning into sauce for the rabbit.

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Ingredients

  • A 3 to 4-pound rabbit, cut into 7 or 8 pieces
  • 1 cup wine vinegar, preferably white
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced very thin
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 yellow or red peppers, skinned raw with a peeler, cores and seeds removed, and sliced into thin strips
  • Chopped hot chili pepper, teaspoon or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. Put the rabbit pieces in a bowl where they will fit snugly, and add the vinegar, coarse salt, and enough water to cover. Let steep for 6 to 7 hours at cool room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. Turn the pieces occasionally.
  2. When ready to cook the rabbit, drain the bowl and wash the pieces in cold water. Look for any loose small bones and pick them out. Pat the meat dry with a kitchen towel.
  3. In a sauté pan able to contain all the rabbit pieces in a single layer, put the olive oil, and turn the heat on to high. When the oil is hot, put in the rabbit and brown it on all sides.
  4. Take the meat out of the pan, lower the heat to medium, and put in the sliced onion. Turn it occasionally and when it becomes lightly colored, add the sliced garlic. Cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally, then return the rabbit pieces to the pan.
  5. Turn the meat over once or twice, then add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browning residues.
  6. Add the peppers, salt, and chopped hot chili pepper to taste. Turn over all the ingredients once or twice, put a lid on the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 1 hour to 1½ hours until the meat is tender and comes off the bone and the peppers have dissolved almost entirely into a sauce. Check the pan from time to time during the cooking, turning over its contents, and if you find that the cooking juices have dried up, add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water when needed. On the other hand, if, when the rabbit is done, the pan juices are too runny, remove the meat from the pan and turn up the heat to high, stirring and reducing the juices to a desirable density.
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