This recipe is adapted from one that appears in Diane Kochilas’ “The Glorious Foods of Greece,” which, in my opinion, is the last word on Greek regional cuisine. The recipe originates in Crete, where they eat a lot of rabbit, and a lot of wild greens. This works well in Northern California where I live, because we have lots of rabbits and lots of wild fennel, which is the preferred form in this recipe. If you can’t find it, look for the non-bulbing kind of fennel. If you can’t find that, just use the tops of bulb fennel and save the bulb for something else.
Do you need Meyer lemons for this? No, but they are sweeter (and I happen to have a tree of them in my back yard). Do you need a wild rabbit? No, but they are tastier — unless you get a specialty rabbit from someplace like Devil’s Gulch in California. And domestic rabbits are huge compared to their wild cousins: One domestic will feed four in this recipe.
You can also use squirrels for this, but not hares. You want a white meat here.
Â Serves 4
1 domestic rabbit or 2 wild ones (or 2 squirrels), cut into serving pieces
2 cups white wine
1 cup Gigandes beans (you can use limas, but they’re not as good), soaked overnight
1/4 cup olive oil
10 scallions, 3 leeks or one large onion, sliced thin
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 artichokes, hearts and short stems only, halved
1 cup coarsely chopped fennel fronds
salt and white pepper
Rabbit stock or chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour
Juice of 2 lemons (Meyer or otherwise)
- Lightly salt the rabbit pieces. Boil the white wineÂ untilÂ you can no longer smell alcohol (about 2-3 minutes), take off the heat and cool. Once it’s cool, add the rabbit and marinateÂ overnight in the fridge.
- The next day, take the meat out of the fridge, pat dry and let come to room temperature for at least 1/2 hour.
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
- Once the rabbit is ready, dredge it in the flour and brown it on all sides in the olive oil over medium heat. Use a brazier, Dutch oven, or a heavy pot with a lid for this. Once the rabbit is browned, remove and set aside.
- Add the scallions or leeks into the pot and saute over medium-high heat until you get some color. No burning the onions!
- Add about a 1/2 cup of the white wine marinade to deglaze. Let it reduce by half, mix well, then add back the rabbit pieces and the gigandes beans. Add rabbit or chicken stock until itÂ covers the rabbit pieces by about a quarter inch. Cover and put in the oven for at least 2 hours. You ultimately want the rabbit to be giving to the probe of a fork.
- Somewhere around that 2-hour mark — no later — check to see if the rabbit is beginning to submit, and if so add the artichokes and half the fennel, then check for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Add some white pepper at this point. Make sure everything is neatly arranged in the pot and not sticking, then cover again and give the lot another 30 minutes.
- Once the 30 minutes are up, check everything. You need the rabbit to be tender. If it isn’t put it back in. Once it has submitted to your liking, turn off the heat and make the lemon sauce. Whisk flour and lemon juice together, then add a ladleful of the stew into it, whisking all the time. Do this again, then add it to the stew and stir to combine carefully; think of it more as folding in the lemon sauce rather than whisking or stirring. Cover and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Garnish with the rest of the chopped fennel, a little more white pepper, and serve with rice or good crusty bread.