Posted by: lisetta | May 10, 2010

Coniglio redux

I worked in the garden for four hours today. Four hours of digging and raking and pulling up grass and breaking up clumps of soil. I dug out my entire garden, AND hand clipped its perimeter. My forearms, hands and back are tired. In the last hour or so of work, I found my thoughts drifting to how I would prepare the rabbit I had taken out of the freezer and soaked in white wine. How about with fennel, olives and preserved lemon?

Rabbit and polenta di Lisetta

Its preparation is a snap. Seriously. I started off with an infusion of garlic in olive oil (cloves removed!) and browned the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper.

Isn’t it lovely? I was talking to my mom on the phone while making it; she’s disturbed I’m eating what could be her pet. When I was in college, she brought a lop-eared bunny home. Hoppy bunny was its name. Clever, huh? I first met it when it hopped out from under the living room couch and scared the Hell out of me. Everyone laughed. I remember wishing I could afford to live in the dorms. LOL. Anyway, I digress…

Once the rabbit was browned, I removed it and put into the pan chopped mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery), parsley and fennel. Once softened, I put the rabbit back in, covered it with pinot grigio, added a chopped preserved lemon and a few olives, and closed it up in my pressure cooker for about an hour. It’s delicious. I served it to myself on a bowl of polenta. Why people who live alone do not cook for themselves is beyond me.

I mentioned to Ray that I was cooking rabbit for dinner and we struck up a conversation about what part of Italy it’s eaten in. I associate it more with the north, but only because it’s where I lived. Ray’s family, from the south, never used to make rabbit. So, I came back to consult one of my newest favorite sources of information: La Cucina: the Regional Cooking of Italy. In the meats and poultry section, there were 18 different recipes for rabbit, mostly from northern and central regions: Piemonte, Liguria, Trentino, Toscana, Lazio, Umbria, and Emilia Romagna.  Three southern regions were represented: Sicilia, Campania, and Puglia. Interesting. I wonder why rabbit is eaten less in the south? Too tired to Google my way to answers tonight.

I do think that anyone who loves Italian food should own this book, though. If you aren’t already familiar with Italian cooking techniques, you’ll probably find that its recipes are not always written very well, but it gives an amazing overview of the country’s foods. Amazon’s product description reads:

Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy’s more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes—many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat—2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it’s not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. The book is an excellent everyday source for easily achievable recipes, with such simple dishes as White Bean and Escarole Soup, Polenta with Tomato Sauce, and Chicken with Lemon and Capers. For ease of use there are four different indexes. La Cucina is an essential reference for every cook’s library.

What an awesome project. I’d like to bring a chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina to Philadelphia. Have been talking with a few folks from the universities about the idea. Why not?

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Responses

  1. This dish looks and sounds delicious! I grew up in Kansas and my family cooked rabbit quite a bit, but it was fried like chicken. I love the flavor and texture of rabbit meat. I’d love to read the cookbook – sounds like a great addition to my collection. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Thanks, Vickie. I didn’t realize Americans ate rabbit too! Can you find it easily in Montana? In Philly, I’ve found several butchers selling only frozen Chinese rabbits, but I got this one from an Amish farmer selling in a market. 🙂

  3. I have friends who always have rabbit for Easter.


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