by Lawrence Davis-Hollander
The Italian word cacciatora means "hunter style" and characterizes dishes that take their inspiration from dishes made from birds or small animals caught by hunters and mixed with flavorings of herbs, onions, tomatoes, and Italy's ubiquitous wine and olives. Here in America chicken generally replaces game, but in Italy rabbit remains a favorite. It is a truly delicious meat, mild and tasty, and it pairs well with red or black tomatoes. Serve with polenta or a wide cut of pasta such as tagliatelle or pappardelle dressed with a little Pesto.
• 1 rabbit, cut into 8 pieces (see Note)
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 4 parsley sprigs
• 2 sprigs rosemary, each about 2 inches long
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
• 2 bay leaves
• 1¾ cups Italian red wine
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 medium-large onion, chopped
• 1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
• 3 cups fresh or canned chopped tomatoes
• 2-3 teaspoons tomato paste
• 12 Italian black or kalamata olives
1. Put the rabbit pieces in a casserole dish or baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and tuck the parsley, rosemary, half the garlic slices, and the bay leaves among them. Pour on the wine and let sit for 2 hours (or up to 12 hours, if preferred), turning the pieces 2 or 3 times.
2. When you are ready to prepare the dish, remove the rabbit pieces from the marinade and wipe them dry. Reserve the marinade. Heat the oil in a casserole dish or large saucepan with a lid. Add the rabbit pieces and cook gently for 5 to 6 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove and add the onion, remaining garlic, and the celery and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes and any juice. Strain in the marinade. Add the bay leaves and rosemary from the marinade. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes, until the rabbit is tender.
3. Stir in the tomato paste a spoonful at a time, using only enough to thicken the sauce. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Finally, add the olives and simmer 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.
NOTE: Chicken can be substituted for the rabbit. It will need only 15 to 20 minutes of simmering to reach tenderness in step 2.