Wild Rabbit Cacciatore Over Pesto Orzo Recipe

This dish is traditionally served with chicken, but it also delicious prepared with wild rabbit; after all, ‘cacciatore’ does mean ‘hunter’ in Italian

By: Jenny Nguyen, TheSportsmanChannel.com

Wild rabbit meat has a color, texture and taste very similar to dark-meat chicken, which is why this converted recipe works so well. (Jenny Nguyen photo)

Wild rabbit meat has a color, texture and taste very similar to dark-meat chicken, which is why this converted recipe works so well. (Jenny Nguyen photo)

 

To start this very delicious dish, the rabbit meat must be browned to develop flavor, and then it’s slowly braised in a delicate sauce of fresh tomatoes, white wine, earthy mushrooms and herbs. You may cook this dish with a red wine as well, but I chose to go the white wine route to keep the braising sauce light. I suggest you cook this dish with whatever wine that you will enjoy drinking with the dinner.

Serve rabbit cacciatore with your preferred starch, but I especially like it with orzo. Orzo is a type of pasta that gives the dish a nice bite when cooked to al dente. It also does a good job at absorbing the flavors of the pesto and the sauce, but still keep its shape. However, other pastas, rice and potatoes will work, too.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 2½ hours

Ingredients:

  • 1½ pounds of wild rabbit meat
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil, separated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup of chardonnay or Chianti wine
  • 3 cups of diced ripe tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Reduced-sodium chicken broth, about 2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • Chopped parsley
  • 1 box of orzo pasta
  • Prepared basil pesto or homemade

 

Directions:

Wild-Rabbit-Cacciatore-Pesto-Orzo-Recipe-step1

(Jenny Nguyen photo)

 

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut wild rabbit in serving-size pieces. Remove thick layers of silver skin from rabbit, but don’t worry about getting it all. Pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

Wild-Rabbit-Cacciatore-Pesto-Orzo-Recipe-step2

(Jenny Nguyen photo)

 

2. Over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan with a lid. Lightly dredge seasoned rabbit in flour, shaking off excess. Brown meat on both sides until golden brown. Move rabbit to a plate and set aside.

(Jenny Nguyen photo)

(Jenny Nguyen photo)

 

3. Lower heat to medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt to the skillet; add more oil if necessary. Cook onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Brown mushrooms on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf, and cook for 30 seconds. Do not allow garlic to brown.

(Jenny Nguyen photo)

(Jenny Nguyen photo)

 

4. Pour wine into the pan with saffron. Allow wine to simmer until mostly evaporated. Add diced tomatoes to the pan and then return rabbit to the pan. Pour in enough chicken broth to submerge the rabbit halfway. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and then fit the lid onto the pan as tightly as you can. Bake rabbit cacciatore in a 325-degree oven for about 2 hours, or until tender. Check halfway through to make sure there’s still sufficient liquid—if not, add more broth. Thirty minutes before taking dish out of the oven, remove the aluminum foil to allow some steam to escape to thicken sauce.

5. To prepare orzo, cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pan. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and pesto to taste. Taste cacciatore sauce for seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley and capers. Serve rabbit pieces over orzo with some sauce.

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