Thursday, December 10, 2009

braised rabbit with black olives and polenta

Mmmm. Bunny. Or, more precisely, Braised Rabbit with Black Olives and Polenta.

If that sounds familiar, it's because you've most likely salivated over the original at Al Di Là Trattoria, of Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake fame. The entire dish, en Le Creuset, was transported here straight from our friend's oven, making for a delicious centerpiece to our weekend meal. (Yes, said friend is both a braising wizard and the best potluck guest ever.)

It was basically like getting Al Di Là delivered to our doorstep, which is a seriously dangerous proposition. (Round-the-clock Beet Ravioli with Butter and Poppy Seeds?) True to the original, we served it over creamy polenta—I used Andrew Carmellini's recipe, subbing out most of the milk for chicken stock—with Marcella Hazans's braised carrots and a cauliflower-pear-hazelnut dish I'll get to one of these days.

Braised Rabbit with Olives
Adapted from Anna Klinger

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (2- to 3-pound) rabbit, cut into serving pieces as you would a chicken

Salt and black pepper

5 cloves garlic, crushed

1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1/2 cup white wine

2 to 3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

1/2 cup canned tomatoes, chopped (don't bother to drain)

12 black oil-cured olives

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the oil in a deep skillet or casserole, and turn the heat to medium-high. A minute or so later, when the oil is hot, add the rabbit, season it with salt and pepper and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary; the process will take about 10 minutes. Remove the rabbit to a plate, pour off excess fat, if there is any, and return the pan to the stove over medium heat.

Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly colored, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the wine and raise the heat to high; scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits, and reduce the wine until there is just a tablespoon or two of liquid remaining in the pan.

Turn the heat down to medium, return the rabbit and any juices to the pan, and add the stock, tomatoes, and olives; cover and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the rabbit is tender but not falling off the bone (it tends to dry out at that point). Remove the rabbit, olives, rosemary, and garlic to a plate. Return the pan to the stovetop and reduce the liquid to a thick, sauce-like consistency (you want about 1 cup liquid) over high heat. Stir in the butter, pour over the rabbit, and serve.

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