I bought a prepared (i.e. skinned, gutted and headless) wild rabbit from my butcher, Murray’s in Gloucester Rd yesterday and I jointed it and marinated it in olive oil, garlic, black pepper and crushed juniper berries, with fresh thyme, sage, bay and rosemary.
I didn’t use any salt or wine at this point, because these things draw moisture out of the meat.
When I was ready to start cooking, I took the rabbit out of the marinade and coated it in seasoned flour. I poured off the olive oil from the dish with the herbs to use in the cooking process.
Next, I prepared the ingredients for a soffritto with diced celery, carrot, leek and shallot and chopped up some speck.
Then, I heated up some of the herb-scented olive oil with a knob of butter in a pan and browned the rabbit pieces, putting them back in with the herbs when they were done.
Next, I sautéed the diced speck in the same oil until it started to give up its fat and began to brown and added the soffritto vegetables and sweated them down until they were softened up.
I put about a third of a bottle of dry white wine into the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and mixing everything together, adding and equal amount of hot water, stirring in some tomato purée and seasoning with a little salt. Then I brought it to a boil and reduced the heat to a low simmer, before putting the rabbit and herbs into the pan.
The pan was then covered and simmered for about 35-40 minutes, so that the rabbit was cooked through but not overdone.
While this was cooking, I sautéed some button mushrooms in butter and olive oil (I used the rest of the oil left over from the marinade) and set these aside until the dish was ready to be finished off.
When everything was ready, I added the mushrooms to the pan, letting everything cook together for a couple of minutes longer.
I served the rabbit with buttery wet polenta, which is a lovely alternative to pasta or mashed potatoes. You can use the traditional stuff or the fast cook polenta. I used the latter.
This is the kind of dish that needs a good wine, but not a really heavy one. You could drink a white wine, but game works much better with red wine, in my opinion.
Both Bordeaux or Burgundy would work well here, or maybe an Italian red, seeing as this dish is very influenced by Italian cuisine.
We chose a red Burgundy, a nicely mature 2002 Volnay, from the Caves des Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. I think that Pinot Noir has a real affinity with game, so this wine worked really well.