Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Tuscan Rabbit Stew

Wednesday, October 04, 2017
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert

Serves 4

Before you get all weak in the knees and start humming a Disney tune, let’s examine the facts about eating rabbit meat. Rabbit meat is tender, lean, delicious and as versatile as chicken, to which it can also be compared in taste.

When rabbit meat is on the menu, expect controversy to follow. It is socially acceptable to use farm animals, such as cows and chickens, as food; however, many people balk at the idea of eating rabbit, according to a July 2008 "Washington Post" article. Despite this resistance to consuming rabbits, this lean meat serves as a healthful and nutritious alternative to beef and pork. But let’s begin with some positives:

Rabbit is the highest protein% of all meats. Rabbit has only 795 calories per pound. As compared to Chicken 810, Veal 840, Turkey 1190, Lamb 1420, Beef 1440, Pork 2050.) Cholesterol level in rabbit meat is much lower than chicken, turkey, beef, pork. If you are not convinced by these stats, you can always use chicken and lamb in this recipe following same steps.

Ingredients

1-3 pounds fresh rabbit, cut into 8 pieces

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, plus extra for garnish

½ cup white wine vinegar

½ cup dry white wine

¾ cup beef broth, reduced sodium

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Directions

Pat rabbit dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Add rabbit and rosemary and cook, turning, until rabbit is browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Increase heat to high, add vinegar and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until vinegar is almost evaporated, 5 to 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, add wine and cook, uncovered until wine is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in beef broth; cover and simmer, turning rabbit once or twice, until tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Add some water if you see that is getting too dry. Transfer rabbit to a warm platter and tent with foil to keep warm while you prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, mash butter and flour into a paste. Add to pan and simmer, mashing garlic into the sauce, until lightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Spoon the sauce over cooked rabbit. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve hot.

Eating Rabbit

Rabbits have likely been hunted and eaten since before recorded history, though we do know that around 1000 BC the Phoenicians reached Spain and started to domesticate the wild rabbits they found there. These Old World rabbits were native to North Africa and Spain, but human exploration spread them around the globe. Now rabbits exist on nearly every continent --though they haven’t invaded Antarctica yet. Eating rabbit is quite common in the Mediterranean, especially in Italy and France, who are responsible for the highest production and consumption of rabbit in Europe. Typical menus in Italy feature rabbit in cacciatore, ragu and lasagna. Because rabbit meat can also be very dry, it is often found in stews or recipes that involved simmering or braising in an aromatic broth. The mildness of the meat is often accented with the bold flavors of fennel, mustard, olives, anchovies or tomatoes. In France, rabbit is classically served with mustard, either Dijon or a coarse, grainy style. In the United States, this is the dish most likely to appear on the menus of French restaurants in the early days of their influence. Today, there is a rabbit renaissance going on. Chefs who have been influenced by the nose-to-tail philosophy, and who are interested in issues of sustainability are discovering that rabbit is right in so many ways. If we eat pigs and chickens, there seems to be no logical reason to recoil at the thought of rabbit on the menu.

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well." Check out the Chef's website and blog
 

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