I have made this rabbit stew many times, and I always seem to like it better with the skinny cottontails here in California, although it is very good with domestic rabbits, too. You could use snowshoe hare or pheasant, too, although you’d need add another 30 to 45 minutes on the cooking time. Freaked out about rabbit? Use chicken. Keys here are browning the rabbit really well, including sweet wine (Mavrodaphne if you can find it), as well as allspice and cinnamon.
4large tomatoes,grated, or 1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes[/ingredient]
1cupdry red wine
1/2cupsweet red wine
1/2cupchicken or rabbit stock
1/4cupred wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut up the rabbits and cut into serving pieces. Be sure to include little bits, like the belly flaps, the front legs, the kidneys and such; they become yummy surprises in the finished stew. Salt the rabbit pieces well and set aside for 30 minutes.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a frying pan and brown the rabbit well. As each piece browns, move it to a brazier or Dutch oven or other heavy, lidded pot. When the rabbit is browned, saute the onions for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat, until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Sprinkle with salt. Do not let the garlic burn.
Turn the contents of the frying pan into the brazier or a Dutch oven, then arrange the bay leaves, oregano, allspice berries and cinnamon stick over them.
In the pan you browned the rabbit and the onions, add the wine, sweet wine, vinegar, stock, tomato paste and grated tomatoes — cut tomatoes in half and run them through your coarsest grater to leave the skins out of your pot. Cook this down over high heat for 3-4 minutes, then pour over everything in the pot.
Cover the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook slowly for 1 hour, then check. It may need up to another hour. You want the rabbit to be just about falling off the bone. You can pull the rabbit meat off the bone, as I do, or just let your guests do that. Grind some black pepper and drizzle some really good olive oil over everything right when you serve.