Lepre Con La Zucca (Wabbit Italian Style, Baby!)

The cooking guild started by Sherri Hyder will be meeting for the first time on May 1 which happens to be my mother’s birthday. They are cooking rabbit, kind of ironic when you think it’s really closed to Easter and the bunny will be fricaseed three ways from Sunday. I dug into my grandma’s recipes and came up with her really old recipe from the Old Country. I remember her making  it when I was a teen and I made it once myself. This recipe goes WAY back in time.

There isn’t a region in the western world that doesn’t have rabbit as a staple protein and a million and a half ways to prepare it. Each region of Italy has it’s own recipes for doing rabbit but I like this recipe because it’s a combination of sweet and tangy.

Ingredients:

  • A rabbit or two, skinned and chopped into pieces (discard the head)
  • 3/4 pound butternut squash pulp
  • 1/2 cup almonds (I like them toasted)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 quart (1 liter) dry red wine
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • A sprig of sage
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves
  • A bunch of parsley
  • 3/4 cup  dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup  unsalted butter
  • A pinch each sugar and powdered cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Put the pieces of rabbit in a bowl, rinse the rabbit several times in cold water and then let soak with salt for at least three hours. Then pat the pieces dry and return them to the bowl. Pour the red wine over the rabbit, and add the bay leaves, the garlic, the sage, the rosemary, the cloves, a few peppercorns, and a few leaves of parsley. Cover the bowl and let it stand in the refrigerator over night.

The next day, when you’re ready to cook the tenderized rabbit, plump the raisins in the white wine for 20 minutes, and drain them well. Coarsely chop the almonds, and put them in a bowl with a pinch each of sugar and cinnamon, a generous grind of pepper, and the drained raisins.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or earthenware pot, and brown the rabbit, turning the pieces so they color on all sides. Meanwhile,strain the marinade. Once the meat has browned, sprinkle it with a ladle of marinade. Cook until about half the liquid has evaporated, then stir in the almond mixture, cover, and simmer for an hour.

Add the squash, stir the pieces into the rabbit, and continue cooking for 20 minutes more. Great to serve over arborio rice or polenta.

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