Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Recipe: Braised Sonoma Rabbit Ragu with Fresh Pappardelle

One of the pleasures of living in this new food haven of the Bay area is finding some fantastic local ingredients that I would have otherwise have had to order shipped to me or do some serious ferreting from my home in Chicago. On Saturday, my trip to the Danville Farmer’s Market and Lunardi’s Grocery store (next door to the market) provided me with a *find* for one of my favorite dishes. On Sunday night I prepared the Braised Rabbit Ragu with fresh Pappardelle pasta. I also like this dish with tagliette pasta (*rags*) or over plolenta.

The farmer’s market provided fresh porcinis and chanterelles (for a small fortune of $28) and in Lunardi’s I discovered beautiful plump organic Sonoma rabbits for $6.99 a pound and the butcher cut one up for me. They also make fresh pasta in the store and since my pasta machine and flours are all packed away because of the move, it made a lot of sense to just buy the pasta, though it is a very simple one to make. This is also lovely over polenta.

I was able to find one of the boxes that held my *stash* of Italian tomato products. I love San Marzano Cherry tomatoes and sauces (see pictures), but they are impossible to find here, or at least so far anyway. Regular San Marzano tomatoes are sometimes available here in gourmet markets, only one or two brands though and the prices are at least twice of what we paid in Chicago. Eventually I may find a source for these special Italian items that I so love (a North Beach Field Trip is on the books), but for now, I am relying on what I brought with me to make things special. If not, I have Chicago friends that I may bribe to ship some to me when my stash runs out.

I used turkey stock because I had just made some deep dark rich turkey stock last week and it was splendid in the recipe. I now have rabbit stock on hand of course.

My own new garden provided the rosemary, thyme and oregano. In fact I probably went heavier on these herbs than the recipe I am posting because I love them and have plenty of them. Fresh oregano is so much milder than dried, I feel like you need to be generous with it for good flavor.

So, I hope you seek out the ingredients and try this yourself, because this dish is sincerely worth the effort. Whomever you cook for will love you forever.

From the kitchen with a view of Mt. Diablo,

Don’t forget there is a great lake house with an amazing kitchen for sale in Chicago…. www.pineconelane.com

Here is the recipe:

©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2006

This is one of my favorite winter dinners. It combines many special ingredients, fresh chanterelle and Porcini mushrooms, rabbit, San Marzano tomatoes, parmegiano-reggiano, wine and fresh herbs. Finding good organic rabbit is one crucial key. Find a farmer near you if your stores do not offer it.

. Brining Ingredients:

1 (3 lb.) rabbit cut into 2 forelegs, 2 hindlegs and the saddle cut cross-wise into 2 sections. Use carcass for stock
1 cup white wine1 cup water
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt
4 tablespoons sugar

Braising Ingredients:

8 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz diced pancetta
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced onion or shallots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or more to taste)
2 cups dry white wine2 cups tomato puree
1 large can of San Marzano ( I prefer the cherry size, but they are hard to find) Tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (or make rabbit stock by roasting the carcass of the cut up rabbit and simmering it with the vegetable trimmings from above in 6 cups of water)
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, tied in cheesecloth to make a packet
Spice packet:: 2 juniper berries; 3 sprigs each thyme and rosemary; 2 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick, tied in cheesecloth to make a packet
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup Wondra or Pastry Flour
A large fresh porcini mushroom cut into ½ inch pieces (or baby portabellas) about ¾ cup
8 cloves of garlic sliced
½ cup of dry white wine for deglazing pan
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons minced shallots
8-10 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, sliced into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Or if small keep whole or cut in half
Freshly grated parmegiano-reggiano
1 lb. fresh pappardelle pasta
Serves 4


1. Dissolve salt & sugar into wine and water. Place rabbit pieces in a bowl and cover with the brine. If brine does not cover rabbit completely, increase volume of ingredients proportionately. Cover the bowl and let sit in refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. *You can also use a zip lock bag.
2. Pre-heat oven to 325oF. In an oven-proof saucepan or Dutch oven just large enough to hold the rabbit pieces in a single layer, sauté the pancetta until lightly browned. Add the garlic and continue 2 minutes until golden brown. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion, carrot, celery and oregano, and sauté until the vegetables start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, tomato puree, stock, and the dried porcini in cheesecloth. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that develops, season lightly with salt and pepper and decrease the heat to a simmer.
3. In the meantime, pat dry the rabbit pieces with a towel. Season them with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour; shake off any excess. Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the rabbit and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add fresh porcinis and sliced garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Remove rabbit and garlic/mushrooms, then deglaze pan over medium heat by adding ½ cup white wine. Stir, removing all small bits from the bottom of the pan and scrape deglazing liquid into the sauce.
4. Transfer the legs to the sauce. Return the sauce to a simmer and skim. Cut a circle of parchment paper that just fits inside the pot and cut a 1-inch hole in the center. Place the paper on top of the rabbit legs and cover with lid. Braise in the oven for 45 minutes. Add the loin and continue braising for another 20 minutes until legs are fork tender.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the rabbit pieces to a dish. Remove the spice packet and discard. Remove the porcini mushroom packet and take the mushrooms out of the cheesecloth. Transfer them to a blender with 1 cup of the braising liquid and puree until smooth, then return the puree to the braising liquid. De-fat the braising liquid if needed then reduce over moderately low heat to about 4 cups. When the rabbit meat is cool enough to handle, shred by hand. Do not chop with knife. Put the meat back in the braising liquid and keep warm.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pappardelle. In the meantime, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat, add the shallots, and sauté until the shallots start to caramelize. Add the chanterelles and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Season with salt and pepper. When water is rolling add pasta and cook until al dente, testing after 60 seconds.
7. Add the rabbit with the sauce, a splash of vinegar, and the leaves of three stems of fresh oregano. Toss in the cooked noodles, and 2 tablespoons parmegiano. Divide the pasta among heated plates, sprinkle with remainder of parmegiano and serve with Pinot noir.

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