Francesco Mazzei’s Sicilian Rabbit


A signature dish by Francesco Mazzei, this rabbit recipe was inspired by a meal cooked by his in-laws in Sicily.

He recounts: “We had a dish of sardines with sweet and sour sauce. After we finished the sardines we had rabbit as a main course and there was all the sauce still left on the plate, so I was dipping the rabbit in the sauce – it was phenomenal! I thought I’m going to come up with a rabbit dish that will be equally phenomenal”.

For the rabbit:
• 1 rabbit, whole, 1.3kg in weight
• 3l extra virgin olive oil
• salt
• pepper

For the filling:
• 100g of pancetta
• 5g of garlic, minced
• 2g of rosemary, finely chopped
• salt

For the stock:
• 500g of chicken bones
• 100g of celery
• 100g of carrots
• 100g of onion
• 100ml of white wine
• 50ml of extra virgin olive oil
• 1 bay leaf

For the reduction:
• 300ml of red wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp of sugar
• thyme
• 10g of double concentrated tomato paste

For the mashed potato:
• 200g of potato
• 50g of olive oil
• salt

For the garnish:
• 4 baby beetroots
• 4 baby carrots
• 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
• 70g of olives, Taggiasca, cut in half
• 20g of sultanas, previously soaked in warm water
• 4 pickled onions, Borettana
• marjoram, chopped
• 5g of pistachio nuts, shelled and peeled
• 5g of pine nuts
• chervil
• olive oil
• rock salt
• salt
• pepper

1 Start by removing the offal (kidneys and liver) and excess fat from the rabbit. Joint it into 5 pieces (2 shoulders, 2 legs and the saddle). Cut the remaining bone/spine and offcuts into approximately 14 pieces. Reserve the bones, off-cuts and offal for late.
Preheat the oven to 83°C, or use a thermometer and pot on the stove for step 3 if the oven does not have very accurate settings.
Place the shoulder and leg pieces in a deep oven tray, generously season with salt and pepper and cover with the olive oil. Cook in the oven for 3 hours, checking the rabbit from time to time ensure that the meat is not coming off the bone. Remove and allow to cool in the oil.
To make the stock, wash, peel and roughly cut all of the vegetables into large chunks. Place a large saucepan over a high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is very hot, add the chicken, rabbit bones and off-cuts.
Once the bones are browned, deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the vegetables and the bay leaf and cover with ice-cold water to come up 5cm above the bones. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and reduce by 3/4 – this will take approximately 2 hours.
To make the filling, finely cut the rabbit offal (liver and kidney) and pancetta. Mix in a bowl with the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and set aside. Place the saddle, skin-side down on a large sheet of catering-grade cling film.
Arrange the offal and pancetta filling down the middle of the saddle and roll it tightly in the cling film, tying off both ends to seal. Vacuum pack and place into a steam oven or water bath at 83°C degrees for 40 minutes, turning over after 20 minutes. Once ready, cool down in a blast chiller or a large ice bath.
To prepare the reduction, place the vinegar, sugar and thyme in a pan over a high heat. Leave to simmer until you reach the consistency of a syrup, ensuring it does not burn. Add the double concentrated tomato paste and stir through.
Add the reduction into the rabbit stock and simmer until you reach the consistency of a light sauce.
10 To make the mash, wash the potatoes, add to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, bring to the boil and cook until tender – this should take approximately 10-15 minutes.
11 Once the potatoes are ready, drain and peel while still warm. Pass them through a mouli straight-away and season with olive oil and salt. Set aside until required.
12 Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4.
13 Wash and trim the baby beetroot and place each one on a small bed of rock salt within a square of tin foil. Loosely wrap the foil around the beetroots and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until just tender. Remove and allow to cool slightly, then cut in half lengthways.
14 Peel and trim the carrots, leaving a little of the tops intact for presentation. Place a pan over a medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to just about coat the base of the pan. Once hot, add the fennel seeds and allow to sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the carrots and sauté until lightly brown. Season to taste and set aside.
15 Once ready to serve, slice the saddle into 2cm thick pieces and pan-fry both sides until nicely coloured all over.
16 Add the shoulder and leg pieces to the sweet and sour jus. Then, once the meat is nice and glazed, add the olives, sultanas, pickled onions, a few drops of vinegar and to finish, the chopped marjoram. Adjust with salt if needed.
17 To plate, place a small quenelle of mashed potato onto each plate. Add 2 pieces of saddle (one on top of the mash) and divide the legs and shoulders between the plates. Sauce all around and garnish with your sautéed baby vegetables. Finish with pine nuts, crushed pistachios and chervil before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Francesco Mazzei for Great British Chefs. See here for more. 

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