Sierra Winter Rabbit Stew

Prepare these stews a day in advance and let them sit on a warm part of the wood stove for days afterwards. Use leftovers for making pasta dishes, add in various vegetables, beans, rice, or lentils for a continuous source of culinary delight for stormy winter evenings. The one single most important fact to know about rabbit meat is that it’s one of the leanest around, with very high protein content. This means it’s extremely nutritious on one hand, and easy to over cook and dry out on the other. Always keep the cooking temperature as low as possible!

1 fresh rabbit, 2-2.5 lbs., limbed
1 fresh rabbit liver
1 lbs. Fresh wild mushrooms (or 2 oz. dried)
1 large white onions, halved and sliced thinly
1 medium size fresh carrot, julienned
2 celery stalks, julienned
1 small green bell pepper, julienned
1 small red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium size tomato, chopped
6-8 small (young) potatoes (halved if too large)
1 bouquet garnit (fresh thyme, bay leaf, rosemary)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic
1 cup Renaissance Viognier
2 cups rabbit stock
plenty of Apollo Sierra olive oil
2 teaspoons goose or duck fat (optional)

1. In a deep heavy pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil with the goose fat until very hot, but not smoking. Add in the rabbit parts and fry until golden-brown on all sides. Remove and set aside in a covered dish.

2. Add more oil if necessary. Saute the various vegetables, stirring them in gradually, with 2-3 minute intervals: first the onion, then green pepper, red pepper, carrots, celery, and mushrooms (if fresh; if dried, they ought to be added later); add the garlic and keep going for another couple of minutes.

3. Add the tomato and the white wine and bring to boil. Simmer until about half of the wine evaporates, about 20 minutes.

4. Add the rabbit, the stock , the liver, and the bouquet garnit. If using dried mushrooms, add them now. Bring to boil and immediately lower the heat to very low (in most modern stoves, the “low” setting is not nearly low enough for this; you may have to carefully turn the nob the other way, between High and Off, to the point where the flame is truly very low). Cover.

5. Simmer for at least 1.5 hours; 12 or 24 would be better. If you choose the shorter version, par-boil the potatoes first and let them simmer along with the stew for as long as possible. If you go for the long version, you can add the potatoes in uncooked, about 12 hours before serving.

6. Before serving, liquify the liver in a blender with 1-2 cups of the liquid; add it back into the stew pot and stir gently.

7. Place the pot in the center of the dinner table, garnished with the parsley and serve home style.

Serves 4-6 people.