People tend to spend too much time complaining about a lack of satisfaction somewhere in their lives: at work, with their low-fat diet, in their marriage, in that one measly bite of dessert when they really wanted the whole thing. Great news, people: I’m not going to complain. In fact, I want to share with you some recent satisfaction, mostly all related to my rabbit ragu.
Part of the impetus behind making this somewhat ambitious (for a weeknight) meal was family. At a recent family gathering, I experienced both satisfaction and guilt after listening to family members complain about how they haven’t had much to read lately on Eating the Rind. I was satisfied to hear praise (even though they are relatives and should do it anyways), but also extremely guilty for my non-existent recent postings. But here I am again, and I knew I wanted to come back with a bang.
Luckily, I had a great excuse last week for an exciting mid-week meal of rabbit. Two of Eating the Rind’s biggest supporters and fellow gourmandes, my aunt and uncle Sheila and Bob, accepted our invitation to stay the night before their morning flight home to Virginia (I don’t know if I mentioned that we moved and now have guest rooms?). After rushing to my old school butcher in Boston’s North End followed by hours of searing, braising, shredding, and cultivating my little bunny into a delicious ragu, I was ultimately very satisfied having an excuse to cook something more challenging than a sandwich. After a few busy days and nothing exciting happening in the kitchen, I always feel comforted and satisfied after getting back at it, particularly when my Le Creuset and pasta are involved. And good company. And wine.
The final satisfaction factor (satisfactor?) related to the rabbit had to do with the fact that Bob was recovering from a bad experience with rabbit–one in which it was underdone. Not a quality I typically like when eating rabbit, and apparently one I share with Bob. What I do enjoy, however, is a challenge, so I was excited to help him over his rabbit slump, bringing him back from the dark side. Based on Bob’s (and everyone else’s) second helpings, I think I did so successfully. Satisfaction completed.
Rabbit Ragu (serves 4-6)
1 lb. fresh pappardelle pasta
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. carrots, small dice
1 c. onions, small dice
1/2 c. celery, small dice
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 whole rabbit, cleaned and cut into large pieces
1 c. red wine
14 oz. can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes and liquid
pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 c. chicken stock
1 lb. portabella mushrooms, thinly sliced and gills removed
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
few tbsp. of chopped fresh parsley and sage
salt and pepper
In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter and oil and add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook for several minutes until soft. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper and in batches (unless you have a gigantic Dutch oven), add them to the pan and slowly brown on all sides over 15 minutes to develop flavor but not burn the vegetables. Once all the rabbit is browned, return all the pieces to the pan and deglaze with half of the wine, simmering until almost evaporated. All tomatoes, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, tomato paste, and vinegar and simmer a few minutes. Add remaining wine and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and lower heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rabbit is tender, approximately 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and sweat the seasoned portabella mushrooms until just tender. Set aside. If your porcini mushrooms are clean, soak in a ladel-full of the rabbit sauce for a few minutes until soft (if they are on the dirtier side, soak to rehydrate and loosen dirt, straining and holding reserved liquid).
Remove rabbit from the sauce. When cool enough to handle, remove and shred the meat, setting aside. With an immersion blender (or food processor or blender if you don’t have one), blend into a coarse purée. Return rabbit meat and both portabella and porcini mushrooms (and their liquid) to the pan, simmering to meld flavors and seasoning with parsley, sage, salt and pepper. Serve hot over pappardelle.