Before I start, I know that some of you reading are turning up your nose at the idea of eating rabbit, even if you’ve never even tried it. You may be vegetarian, and if so, you get a pass.
Adapted from the book “Blue Plate Special” by Kate Christensen
printable recipe here
1 rabbit (about 2.5 to 3 lbs.)
4 slices of thickly sliced pancetta (about 1/8″ thick), cut into bits
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup water
thyme, rosemary, bay leaf
fresh parsley, minced
Chop the rabbit into pieces. Fry the pancetta in 1 T. of the olive oil until crisp and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside and resist the temptation to munch on them (ok, have a few bits).
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until translucent. Remove from the pan. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, sauté the rabbit in the oil on high heat, until the pieces turn golden brown. Sprinkle with the flour and sauté for a few more minutes, turning. The pan will look a mess, but don’t worry. All that brown stuff on the bottom with help flavor the sauce and loosens once you add the liquid. Remove the rabbit from the pan and set aside. Add the beef broth and the wine in the pan, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom. Put the onions and rabbit back into the pan, add the herbs and some of the water. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour, adding more water if the sauce gets too thick. Just before serving, sprinkle with the reserved pancetta bits and minced parsley.
Santo Stefano provides the ideal climate for growing lentils – cold, long winters and a short, brisk springtime. Lentils love the predominantly limestone soil of the area and don’t need any fertilization so they’re ideally suited for the poor terrain of the mountains. They’re harvested between the end of July and the end of August and the town holds a festival the first weekend of September to celebrate the legume. It can take as long as 15 days to bring in the harvest, which is almost always done manually. That’s mainly because the lentils, which must be separated from their pods, are so tiny, and there’s a loss of 30 percent to 40 percent with mechanical harvesting. But it’s also difficult to get equipment into some of the growing areas. The photo below shows the lentils just released from their dried pod.
Most of the lentil growers in Santo Stefano are older retired people who cultivate them strictly for family use. That means each year fewer and fewer are available commercially, and they’re impossible to find in the U.S. Even in Italy, they’re not readily available outside of Abruzzo. To help stem the sale of lentils falsely claiming to be from Santo Stefano, the local Slow Food organization, or presidium, requires identification of the grower to be on the label. Below is a photo of Silvan Fulgensi, among the younger growers, and a member of the presidium, shown holding a sifter used to shake the lentils from their outer pods. Silvan and his wife Anna were just putting the finishing touches on a new bar in town called Il Ristoro Degli Elfi, so if you do visit Santo Stefano, stop in, have a drink and a bite to eat.
Coniglio in Porchetta
photo and recipe courtesy of Le Virtu
printable recipe here
1 whole boneless Lancaster County rabbit (available from Sonny D’Angelo on Philadelphia’s 9th St.)
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
1T kosher salt
1/2 T black peppercorns
1/2tsp red pepper flake
4 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 juniper berries
- In a spice/coffee grinder pulverize the black pepper, bay leaf, juniper berries, and cloves to a fine powder. set aside.
- Lay the boneless rabbit flat over plastic wrap. cover with a second sheet of plastic and lightly beat with a meat mallet until a universal thickness of about 1/2 inch.
- Season liberally with olive oil, salt, spice mixture, red pepper flake. Roll the rabbit into a roast, tucking in the sides as you go.
- Tie the roast up with butcher string and season the outside with any remaining spice mix and salt in a hot saute pan add 2 oz of extra virgin olive oil. when the oil starts to smoke add the rabbit.
- Let sear heavily on one side for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Flip the roast and sear for an adittional two minutes.
- Move the hot pan into a preheated oven at 350 degrees
- Cook for an additional 20 minutes
- Remove roast from oven and let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature
- Remove butcher strings and slice into medallions.
- Serve immediately
- Peel onion and carrot and place them with the celery and garlic in a food processor and pulse until you ahve a fine mince.
- In a large pot sweat the vegetable mixture in the olive oil on low heat until they become translucent.
- Add chestnuts and cook for an additional 5 minutes until the chestnuts become tender and start to break apart
- Add lentils and stirr with wooden spoon to mix.
- tie the herbs together with butcher string to for a bouquet garnis, add to the pot.
- Add the stock and season with salt and pepper
- Cook over low heat (a light simmer) until the lentils are tender (about 30 minutes)
- if additional liquid is needed add water a little at a time until the lentils are cooked. (much like the style of a risotto)
- serve immediately under roasted rabbit in porchetta, or add additional stock to make a great soup. Garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Want to get your new year off to a good start? No, I’m not talking about the umpteenth resolution to lose weight. I’m talking about lentils. They are traditionally eaten by many Italians on January 1 to augur a year of prosperity and good luck.
I would have gotten this to you earlier so you’d have more time to cook this today, but my computer was non compos mentis until a half hour ago, when it finally came to its senses and started working again. (Personally, I think it just wanted to watch the Philadelphia Mummer’s Parade in its entirety just once.)
You can enjoy this soup any time of the year, although it’s particularly welcome on a cold winter day, joined by a hunk of freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. You did read yesterday’s post and run right out to get some yeast, right? Right.
I use Italian sausage in this recipe – the kind you get when you order a sausage and pepper sandwich at any Italian street festival. In Italy, lentils are served on New Year’s Day with a type of sausage called cotechino, or with zampone, a stuffed pig’s trotter. Neither is easy to find where I live, but truth be told, I don’t like either of them.
If you prefer, leave the sausage out entirely and make it a vegetarian soup. It will still be good, but not as rich in flavor. This makes a LOT of soup. It would be perfect to invite a gang of friends for an informal meal and serve this with a salad and some cheese and crackers. Otherwise, it stores well in the freezer.
Lentil Sausage Soup
3 links, or about 10 ounces Italian sausage
1 lb. dry lentils
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, or 2 small carrots, sliced
4 cups Tuscan, or lacinato kale, chopped (or regular kale if you can’t find the other kind)
12 cups water
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsps. dried basil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Take the casing off the sausages and fry in a skillet, breaking up the links into bite-size pieces. Drain.
Rinse the lentils in a colander. In a separate large pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the lentils and the rest of the ingredients, including the drained sausage. Cook for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. You may need to add more water if the soup gets too thick. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.