Casserole-Roasted Rabbit with Herbs
- SERVINGS: 8
If you've never made rabbit before, this is the ideal recipe to start with. Utterly simple and delicious, it's Italian home cooking at its best.
- Two 3 1/2 -pound rabbits (see Note)
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 2 marjoram sprigs
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 2 sage sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons water
- Remove and discard the hearts, kidneys and livers from the rabbits or save them for another use. Rinse the rabbits and pat them dry with paper towels. Divide the thyme, marjoram, rosemary, sage and bay leaves into 2 piles and stuff them into the cavities. Close each cavity with a toothpick.
- In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season the rabbits all over with salt and pepper. Add 1 rabbit to the casserole, breast side down, and cook over moderately high heat until the inner legs are golden, about 4 minutes. Turn the rabbit and brown each side until golden, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the rabbit to a platter. Discard the fat and wipe out the casserole with a paper towel. Repeat with another 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the second rabbit.
- Using kitchen string, tie the hind legs together. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the casserole, add the garlic and cook, stirring from time to time, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
- Return both rabbits to the casserole, add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the water and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Cover the casserole and cook over low heat for 40 minutes, turning the rabbits once. Baste the rabbits with the pan juices 3 or 4 times during cooking. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.
- Transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the rabbits are meltingly tender. Turn the rabbits once and baste with the pan juices 2 or 3 times during cooking.
- Transfer the rabbits to a cutting board and remove the strings and toothpicks. Cut off the hind legs and arrange them on a platter. Carefully remove the 2 tenderloins along the backbone and cut each piece in half; add to the platter. Remove the meaty breast flaps and cut each in half; add to the platter. Cover the rabbit loosely with foil to keep warm.
- Boil the juices in the casserole over high heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes, and transfer to a bowl. Serve the rabbit and pass the reduced pan juices separately.
Complement this herb-infused dish with a hearty red such as Barbaresco.