Tom Colicchio learned to cook using Jacques Pépin's 1976 La Technique and 1979 La Methode. The books' lessons came in handy during an apprenticeship at the Hôtel de France in Gascony, in southwest France. One morning, Colicchio showed up for work after a long night of drinking. "The chef took one look at me, said ‘I have a job for you' and pointed at a box with a big, dead hare in it. Luckily, Jacques had written about prepping rabbit, so I knew what to do." Colicchio (an F&W Best New Chef 1991) perfected the dish below when he was working at Manhattan's Gramercy Tavern, braising the tender rabbit with sweet tomatoes, spicy soppressata and olives.
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2 3/4 pounds plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 rabbit legs (about 7 ounces each); see Note
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup pitted Niçoise olives (4 ounces)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
6 ounces thickly sliced soppressata, finely diced
3/4 pound pappardelle
How to Make It
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water. Score the bottom of each tomato with a shallow X. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer the tomatoes to the ice water bath to cool. Peel the tomatoes and cut them in half crosswise. Scoop the seeds and pulp into a strainer set over a bowl. Press the pulp and juice through the strainer and discard the seeds. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the strained pulp and juice.
Heat the olive oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven. Season the rabbit legs with salt and pepper. Add them to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly browned all over, about 6 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to a plate.
Add the chicken stock to the casserole and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add the tomatoes, olives, sherry vinegar, rosemary and the browned rabbit and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rabbit is tender, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Transfer the rabbit to a plate. Boil the sauce until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Pull the rabbit meat from the bones and shred it. Return the rabbit meat to the casserole, add the diced soppressata and simmer for 10 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pappardelle until al dente. Drain the pasta well and divide among shallow bowls. Spoon the rabbit ragout over the pappardelle and serve hot.