Friday, September 21, 2012

Rabbit Ragu

inspired by Chef Anthony Pino of Anthony David's restaurant.

My wife already thinks I'm nuts.  But when I came home from the butcher with rabbit for dinner, I was pretty sure she was going to leave my clothes on the front lawn and file a restraining order.  I know what you're thinking: Rabbit?  But trust me when I tell you it is incredibly delicious and tastes mostly like chicken with a hint of veal, making it ideal to make a Ragu and top over pasta.  Anthony David's in Hoboken, NJ is our favorite restaurant.  Personally, I think Chef Anthony Pino is a genius.  I've always been willing to try anything on his menu, and one time I got around to ordering a version of this rabbit dish.  He has since substituted rabbit for Wild Boar, but I figured I was so inspired by this delightful and hearty pasta dish, that I had to do my best to re-create it at home.  The tricky part is who even sells rabbit?  It's not like I can go down to ShopRite and pick it up.  Lucky for me there is a premier butcher about a mile from my house, so I paid a visit John's Meat Market in Scotch Plains, NJ and pretty soon I was in business!  If you want to make an Italian dish that will impress at your next dinner party, and have people asking if you got this recipe from the "Old Country", then roll up your sleeves and let's get started!

Prep time, 15 minutes. Cook time 1 hr. 45 minutes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 rabbit, 2-3lbs (bone in)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 container anchovies
  • 1 container pancetta
  • 1 cup porcini (or white) mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 carrot, diced or peeled
  • 1 tspn. red-pepper flakes
  •  1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbspn.  tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup seeded, chopped San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1lb fettuccine (or pappardelle or pasta of choice)
  • Parmesan cheese to garnish
Be prepared!  This dish does take some time to prepare, but unlike, say, a risotto, you won't have to stand over every 2 minutes.  Also, I'm a little 'o.c.d.', so I like to prep all of the aromatics, veggies, garlic etc. first so I have them available to just toss in.  With a Ragu, this works exceptionally well since you are not tossing everything in all at once.  Plus, it makes cleaning up a little more organized!  So chop your onions, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, sage and anchovies.  Open the pancetta, and break out the tomato paste!
In a large sauce pan on medium heat, add some oil, and your carrots and onions and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the pancetta, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another 15 minutes.
De-glaze the pan with the wine, turn the heat to high and boil to burn off the alcohol, about 3-4 minutes. Now it's time for the star of the show!  Add the rabbit, with the tomatoes, broth and anchovies.  Bring sauce to a boil for 2 minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about an hour. At the 45 minute mark, you'll probably want to flip the rabbit over in the sauce pan.  Be careful, you don't want to splash red sauce all over you!
Also at the 45 minute mark when you're flipping your rabbit, add the mushrooms and butter. 
At the 1hr. mark, add your sage and bay leaves, and get them stirred into the sauce.  At the 1 hr. 20 min. mark, you will probably want to start prepping the pasta as well, so get a pot of boiling salted water going.  Once boiling, make pasta per package instructions.  This dish is classically made with Pappardelle, but you can use what you prefer.  I used Fettuccine. 
At the 1hr. 35 min. mark, you're pasta is probably done, so drain and set aside.  You'll also want to get a cutting board ready because you have to remove the rabbit from the covered sauce, and begin pull the meat from the bones.  Be diligent, there are several bones to look out for.  Return the boneless meat, cut to your preference, to the sauce, stir, and cook for the remaining 5 minutes.  Top spoonfuls over the pasta, garnish with Parmesan to taste and dive in!

I admit that this dish is unusual, but be adventurous and you won't be disappointed, I promise!

Enjoy!- JOHN

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