Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cacciatore di Coniglio Siciliano

The beauty of the language of my Sicilian-Italian heritage is the ability to take something so simple as 'rabbit stew' and make it sound romantic. If you can make the dish the right way, those at the table look at you with affection too. This is a hearty dish of my homeland, whose translation means a Sicilian-style stew made with what a hunter could gather in the field away from home. If he had a slow cooker.

Some people think it barbaric to eat cute animals like rabbits and deer. These people have never been to a farm and seen what the animals they normally eat look like...now there is something barbaric...ever really look at a pig?And...did you know that rabbit has less calories and fat than even chicken breast?

Regardless, my cousin Kevin is here for a visit, so I thought what better way to welcome him than with a meal our great-grandparents made...in fact, my great-uncle & his great-grandfather Charlie (Cologero, really) used to hunt...and I remember him giving my father fresh rabbits and pheasants to grace our table. I give you a recipe for a rich, savory stew that is hearty and tender.

Cacciatore di Coniglio Siciliano

1 rabbit, about 3 lbs, cut into decent sized pieces
day 1:
1.5 Cups of Red Wine
½ head of garlic roughly chopped
2 tbl Chopped rosemary
2 tbl oregano
Prepare a marinade of the above the night before, and let 1 rabbit, about 3 lbs, cut into decent sized pieces, marinade in it in the refrigerator overnight. Then... 
day 2:
¼ lb Smoked Pancetta, diced (bacon if unavailable)
1.5 lb baby onions or onions cut into big chunks
1 lb Crimini mushrooms
1 cup pitted Sicilian Green or Black cured Olives
2 Tbl Capers
1.5 lb Red, Yellow, Orange Peppers, chopped large
1 can whole tomatoes with juice, halved and seeded
Fry the pancetta on a medium high heat in a tiny bit of olive oil until it releases it's natural fat.
Add the pepper and onions and fry until they start to color and soften. Add the capers and olives, set aside after 5 minutes.
Dredge rabbit in flour, brown it in the same pan in some olive oil.  Set aside.
Add the leftover marinade to deglaze the pan. Add the tomato juice from the can, continue until a thickened stock is created.
Add the rabbit and cooked vegetables including the tomato to a crock-pot and cover completely with the stock. Cook on low setting for about 5 hours. Serve with rice, polenta, or bread. I used brown rice.

The fact that I was always a Bugs Bunny fan didn't stop me from embracing the horrifying truth I learned from Monty Python: There are killer rabbits. And we must eat them first.


  1. This recipe sounds absolutely marvelous. I definitely want to make this. I grew up eating rabbit myself. My father reared championship beagles for many years and we were fortunate to enjoy the fruits of the rabbit hunts. We mostly ate it fried or barbecued, but as an adult I have enjoyed cooking braised rabbit dishes and I light up on the rare occasion that I see a rabbit dish on a menu and almost always order it. I just poo poo those remarks about eating a cute animal. Rabbits are cute, but they are not always very nice. I had a pet rabbit that loved to claw the crap out of me with it's back legs.

  2. You were lucky....wild rabbits have a definitely better taste (imho) than the ones we buy in markets today. My uncle and father didn't quite make it the way I do, btw....they were content to just slow cook it with tomato sauce and bell peppers. Still was awesome though!