I love the flavors of Sardinia: saffron, capers, lusty sauces, stews and game meats. This stew has it all. The recipe has its origins with a rabbit recipe I found in Giuliano Bugialli’s Foods of Sicily and Sardinia. It is traditionally done with rabbit or chicken, but I had some jackrabbits — really hares – I wanted to cook, so here it is. The dominant flavors here are the gamey hare, vinegar, saffron and capers. Use the best saffron you can afford here; it matters. It is a heady mix that needs a strong red wine, crusty bread, couscous or our favorite, a soft polenta with butter and cheese.
1/2cupchopped parsley,plus another 1/4 cup for garnish
1large onion, chopped
Large pinch saffron
1cupwarm water,to bloom saffron
1/4cuphigh-quality red wine vinegar
Salt the hare or rabbit pieces well and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Get the olive oil hot over medium-high heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Pat the hare pieces dry and brown well in the pot. You might need to turn the heat down to medium. Do it in batches and take your time. Place the browned pieces in a bowl while you do the others. This could take 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop half the capers. Get your tap water running as hot as it will go and fill a cup measure. Crush the saffron in your palm and sprinkle it into the hot water. Get every bit, and let this soak as the hare is browning.
Once the meat is all browned, remove it to a bowl. Add the onion and saute until browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add everything into the pot except the extra 1/4 cup parsley, nestling the hare pieces in tight. If the liquid does not come at least halfway up the sides of the hare pieces, add some more water. Do not add wine or stock — the point is to have pure flavors here. Cover tightly and simmer gently over low heat for at least 90 minutes. Hare needs longer, but chicken and domestic rabbit should be done by then. Check the hare after 2 1/2 hours; it should be close to falling off the bone. When it is, pull the meat out and strip it from the bone.
Return it to the pot with the extra parsley and mix well. Turn off the heat and cover for five minutes. Serve over polenta, couscous, Sardinian fregula pasta or with crusty bread. Don’t forget the wine: You will want a big, heavy red here.