LIKE PULLING A RABBIT OUT OF A HAT …
Nothing short of a miracle – or a magic trick – could have guaranteed an Italian win over England in the all-important first match of the Six Nations Rugby Tournament. Alas, they lost 36 to 11. Sad.
The French fared a bit better, though not by much. They lost to Ireland with a slightly more honorable 30 to 21 loss. They played well, but the Irish played so much better. I will give them that!
And to follow my own lead (he he), I have continued my Rugby Six Nations Tournament cook-a-thon in honor of Italy with Coniglio con Peperoni Gialli – Rabbit with Yellow Peppers. This is a delicious, homey dish that comes straight out of the most Italian of kitchens.
When we lived in Milan and I was working in a prestigious millinery studio, I spent my days learning from a wonderful group of women who were not only the best artisans in the business, but were true Italian Mammas. During the course of the morning, every day, while we chattered to help pass the time, one or the other would invariably ask me, the young American housewife, what I would be making for dinner that evening for my man.
Fairly often the answer would be simple: a salad with maybe some bread and cheese to accompany it, or a pot of soup. They would turn their eyes back to their work, just a little embarrassed by my naiveté, shake their heads in unison and I would hear the Tsk Tsk or the “Mamma Mia!” coming from each of them, followed by sighes, heavy with meaning (“what are we going to do with her?”). It was so obvious that I was a lousy wife and housekeeper and I would, they assured me over and over again, surely lose my man if I continued in this fashion. Feeding a man salad for dinner! How could I possibly imagine that this would make him happy!
So these wonderful women, in between the sewing lessons, would slip me suggestions and the occasional recipe. Coniglio con Peperoni Gialli was given to me by Nadia, head milliner extraordinaire. It is easy to put together and so delicious, that even the skeptics in my home (about eating rabbit, that is) love it.
CONIGLIO CON PEPERONI GIALLI – Rabbit with Yellow Peppers
(Per gli Azzurris)
1 rabbit, cleaned and cut into pieces, or the equivalent in your favorite pieces (I used 6 leg/thigh pieces)
Vegetable or olive oil for frying
Sage and rosemary, fresh if you can, dried in a pinch
Glass of dry white wine
3 or 4 large yellow peppers
1 bouillon cube (I use chicken)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash the rabbit pieces and pat dry.
Slice off the tops and bottoms of the yellow peppers and carefully, with a sharp knife, remove all seeds and white ribs from the insides. Carefully slice the peppers into rings. If this is too difficult or time consuming, then just slice into strips. And don’t forget, the peppers shrink during cooking, so 4 is not too many to use.
Put the flour in a dish and flour all the pieces of rabbit.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the pieces, a few at a time, with the sage, rosemary and the glass of wine until browned all over, about 8 to 10 minutes per batch. I usually fry the pieces in two or three batches, and with each new batch, I first drizzle a little more oil in the pan, then I put in the pieces with a little bit more sage and rosemary (if I am using dried). Once the pieces have browned a bit on each side, say after the first 4 or 5 minutes, I then throw in the white wine and let it flavor the browned chicken. When I fry in two or three batches, I divide the one glass of wine between them.
Once all the pieces of rabbit are well browned, remove the sage and rosemary if using fresh leaves. JP suggested I slash through the meat in two or three slices to assure thorough cooking.
Return all the rabbit pieces to the pan, add the sliced peppers, the bouillon cube, salt and pepper generously, then add 1 ½ glasses of water.
Bring just to the boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 1 hour.
Serve hot with polenta.