Rabbit alla Portoghese

Rabbit alla Portoghese

Rabbit is frequently eaten in Europe.  Unfortunately, it is not as popular in the US.  Domestically raised rabbit meat is lean and tastes very much like chicken in my opinion.  I’m lucky enough to have a butcher that carries it at a reasonable price.  It’s also available from a local farmer who specializes in selling organic meat at the local farmer’s market.  Rabbit alla Portoghese (Portuguese style) refers to the original use of Madeira wine, which was imported from Portugal, in making this dish.  Marsala wine, similar to Madeira and produced locally, was subsequently used.

Rabbit alla Portoghese is essentially made with some of the same ingredients used when making caponata.  That’s how my mother explains the recipe.  The rabbit is simmered in a tomato-wine sauce with garlic, onion, celery, green olives, and capers.  Fried eggplant is sometimes also added.

RABBIT ALLA PORTOGHESE
Cunigghiu alla Portoghese/Coniglio alla Portoghese

Difficulty Rating: Medium
Makes 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS:
2 to 2 1/2 pound rabbit
1 can (28 ounce) peeled tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 cup sliced celery heart
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup small pitted Manzanilla olives with pimento
3 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint or basil
2 large potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper

Place tomatoes and juices in a medium bowl.  Crush the tomatoes with your hand and set aside.  Wash rabbit and cut into 6 to 8 pieces.  Pat dry with paper towels.  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven, over medium-high heat.  Brown rabbit on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Transfer rabbit to a large plate.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add remaining olive oil, onion, and celery to the pan and cook for 6 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Add garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.  Stir in tomato paste, Marsala, tomatoes, 1/4 cup water, and bay leaves.  Add rabbit, cover with lid and bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat to low simmer and cook for 15 minutes.  Stir in olives, capers, parsley, and mint, and place potatoes around rabbit.  Add a little more water or Marsala if the sauce seems dry.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and continue to cook for 35 minutes longer, until potatoes and rabbit are tender.

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