serves: 6 servings
This preparation can also be made with boneless rabbit cut into pieces. Have your butcher debone the rabbit for you and keep in mind that boneless rabbit will take about 20 minutes less cooking time and about one cup less of stock than called for in the ingredient list. Either way, this dish is excellent served with Swiss Chard and Potatoes.
2 3-pound rabbits, each cut into 6 pieces
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 leaves fresh sage
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup beer, preferably lager or pilsner
2 cups chicken stock
Ask your butcher to cut the rabbit into six pieces according to the following directions, or do it yourself with a small boning knife or other sturdy, thin bladed knife. Rabbit bones, especially the legs, are similar to chicken bones and can be thin and splintery. You should avoid whacking them with a heavy knife. Cutting the saddle in half is an exception.
Place the rabbit leg side up on a cutting board. Separate the forelegs and hind legs from the loin by cutting along the backbone where the leg joins the backbone. Pull each leg outward from the backbone to make it easier to see the joint. Then work the tip of the knife between the thigh joint and backbone and cut through the joint, separating the leg from the backbone. Pull each leg outward from the backbone to make it easier to see the joint, separating the leg from the backbone. What remains is the loin, or the saddle. Cut the loin in half crosswise with a heavy knife or cleaver.
Season the rabbit pieces generously with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour until lightly coated and tap off the excess flour.
In a very large (at least 14 inches) deep skillet or casserole, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add as many of the rabbit pieces as fit without overlapping. Cook, turning as necessary, until the rabbit is golden brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the rabbit pieces as they brown and, if necessary, add the remaining pieces to the skillet. Remove the garlic cloves, too, if they begin to turn more than a rich golden brown. Add the butter and sage leaves and cook 2 minutes, turning the rabbit pieces in the butter. Add the balsamic vinegar and let it sizzle until almost entirely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the beer and cook, turning the rabbit pieces occasionally, 10 minutes.
Add the stock, season lightly with salt and pepper, and let simmer over medium low heat until the rabbit is tender and the sauce is lightly thickened, about 40 minutes. If necessary, add small amounts of stock toward the end of cooking time to prevent the sauce from becoming too thick. Remove the garlic and sage leaves and serve the rabbit, spooning some of the sauce over each serving.