BACKYARD BUNNY w/ FENNEL
from William Pettit of Tarano, Italy
Karate chop the rabbit on the back of its head til its dead. Peel off his furry footie pajamas. Feed his ears to the dogs...
Click HERE for this recipe with rather graphic but informational visual aids on how to skin a rabbit.
It's nice to soak a rabbit overnight in water and wine or vinegar. This will cure and soften the meat and take out any gaminess. Make a stuffing by sauteeing the chopped interiors (liver esp, but also heart and kidneys) in olive oil with chopped garlic, abundant pancetta (1), olives (2), carrots and celery and wild fennel (3).
Stuff the upper cavity with the stuffing and a handful of fennel leaves and close with string. Massage all over with abundant olive oil and salt and pepper and wild fennel. Roast whole on non-stick baking pan for about 2 hours at 400 °F (204 °C), turning occasionally. Add a glass of white wine or water if necessary to keep juices from burning. Gradually turn more often until brown of all sides. Remove and make a gravy by adding a cup of water and some cornstarch to the pan. You could then mix the gravy with the stuffing put some of each on every serving. Whatever.
Rabbit should be dark and crunchy on the outside, the front legs will be dry, but very moist and tender on thigh and breast. The “sella” or filet is exquisite even without the salty crust. The fennel is almost overwhelming as a scent but not as a flavor, hot, sweet, very wild. Dense and desperate. This recipe orginates from Viterbo, so drink cold dry white wine like Orvieto.
1. pancetta or guancile, or bacon, or lard. Duck fat would work too. I happen to have Corsican guanciale that is wild fennel-y and almost smoky and syrupy, and is great for this recipe. A Lardo di Colonnata might lose to wild fennel.
2. Olives, Green or Black, salty and wet. Martini olives are actually fine. I use black Kalamata-style.
3.wild fennel. This grows in my yard 8 feet tall. The flowers, seeds and leaves are used here, not the root. The flowers and seeds should be dried, the leaves or stems should be fresh. Otherwise just grad handfuls and chop it. Use is abundance. Commercial fennel seeds are an obvious substitute, and Dill, I guess.