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Recipe Courtesy of Chef Matthew Weingarten

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This recipe takes a little bit of time, but the end result is much greater than the sum of all its parts. The ragu is basically a two-step braise. In the first step, you cook off the whole larger joints, with large cut aromatics, white wine, herbs and chicken stock. Then in the second step, the meat is pulled off of those joints and gently folded into a sofrito mix of mirepoix, red wine and my special mountain spice blend.  By cooking the rabbit in these two stages, the meat does not break down significantly, and rather than ending up with a shredded mess of meat, the final sauce reveals tender, plump chunks of rabbit nestled amongst the sauce and vegetables. (Makes 1 gallon)

My favorite way to serve this is on top of some handmade buttery pappardelle, but it also makes pretty quick work out of a nice batch of soft polenta.

Stage 1 Ingredients:
  • •2 Rabbits, cut up into four legs, a rib and neck section, and a loin section. (that’s eight pieces)
  • •2 cups white wine
  • •2 sprigs rosemary
  • •4 sprigs thyme
  • •2 sprigs sage
  • •3 sprigs parsley
  • •12 smashed cloves of garlic
  • •mirepoix (2 carrots cut into large dice, 2 stalks of celery cut into large dice, 1 large onion diced)
  • •Tied Sachet with (2 sprigs rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme, 6 sprigs parsley, 2 sprigs sage and peel of 1 lemon)
  • •1/2 cup of flour
  • •1/2 cup olive oil
  • •2 quarts of chicken stock
Stage 2 Ingredients:
  • •4 tablespoons butter
  • •3/4 cup carrot brunoise
  • •3/4 cup onion brunoise
  • •1/2 cup celery brunoise
  • •1 small can of chopped tomatoes (I like muir glen)
  • •3 cups red wine
  • •2 tablespoons master Mountain Spice Blend
  • •1/4 cup of mixed chopped herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, marjoram)

 

Method for Part 1:

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1) The night before, marinate the rabbit joints in the white wine, garlic and herbs in a large bowl. Make sure everything is coated evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put away in the refrigerator over night.

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2) The next day, remove the rabbits from the wine and blot dry on some paper towels. Reserve the marinade.

3) Meanwhile, heat up a large pot on medium high heat.

4) Season the rabbit liberally all over and dust the joints with the 1/2 cup of flour.

5) Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in your hot pan and place the rabbit joints in to sear. Let them sear on each side for about 3 minutes, being careful not to scorch your pan. As soon as the rabbit is light golden all over, remove from pan and hold aside. Work in batches if your pan is too small, so you do not overcrowd it.

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6) Once all of the rabbit is seared, add in your mirepoix and scrape up all of the bits of fond that are on the bottom of the pan. Lightly caramelize this mirepoix (about 5 minutes).

7) Now add the rabbit back into your pan, along with your sachet and the reserved white wine marinade.

8) Bring this liquid up to a boil, and then add in the chicken stock to the pan.

9) Bring this up to a simmer, cover the pan, and then turn the heat down to low.  Let simmer on the stovetop for about 1 hour, or until the meat is just tender. DO NOT OVER-BRAISE! A good way to tell if the rabbit is done, is to pick up a hind quarter, and try to bend the knee joint. If it moves, it is ready to go on to the next step.

10) Carefully remove all of the joints from the pot and place on a platter to cool.

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11) Meanwhile, strain out the braising liquid, making sure to press on the sachet well to squeeze out all the good and herbaceous aromatics.

12) As soon as the rabbits are cool enough to handle, carefully pick off all the meat, being careful to remove all the bones.  Place picked meat aside in a bowl to wait for step 2.

 

Part 2:

1) Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a one-gallon pot over medium heat.

2) Add in the brunoise of vegetables and sweat them until they just begin to soften and smell nice.

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3) Now add in the 2 tablespoons of the mountain spice blend, stir for 1 minute to toast and then deglaze the pan with the red wine. Bring red wine up to a rapid boil and reduce by half.

4) Now add in the chopped tomatoes and the reserved braising liquid from stage 1. Bring this up to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the flavors begin to like one another.

5) Now gently fold in your picked rabbit meat, turn the heat down to low, and let the ragu simmer for about 10-15 more minutes. You want to allow the juices to marry with the meat, but you do not want to overcook everything.

6) At the very end, fold in the 1/2 cup of mixed chop herbs and serve.

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Master Mountain Spice Blend

This is one of my all time favorite spice blends, it wakes up any braise with its warm blend of spices and cocoa.  It’s great with any kind of game meat, and I particularly like it folded into a good chili.  It is a key flavor in the rabbit ragu recipe.

  • •3 tablespoons coriander seed
  • •1 ancho chilli, seed and stem remove
  • •3 cloves
  • •3 allspice berries
  • •3 star anise pods
  • •1 teaspoon celery seed
  • •1 cardamon pod
  • •1 cinnamon sticks
  • •1 tablespoons fennel seed
  • •2 tablespoons juniper berries
  • •1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • •2 teaspoons white peppercorns
  • •2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • •2 tablespoons sugar
  • •1/2 cups cocoa powder
  • •1/2  grated nutmeg

1) Toast all of the spices and the chili in a large skillet.

2) Once they are aromatic, remove them to a spice grinder and grind into a fine powder.

3) Fold the spices into the cocoa, nutmeg and sugar mix and hold aside until ready to use.