Braising calls for cooking meats and vegetables in liquid until tender. It is similar to stewing but requires less liquid, and you can use larger cuts of meat and whole vegetables. I use this technique to turn a whole rabbit from Tangletown Farm in Middlesex into a simple and delicious dinner. Serve the tender rabbit over rice or polenta with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms and a glass of Lincoln Peak Vineyard’s Marquette, a dry, robust red wine from New Haven.
Serves 4 generously
- 1 whole rabbit, about 4-5 pounds
- Vegetable oil, for the pot
- 3 large yellow onions, peeled and cut into quarters
- 5 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-long pieces
- 4 to 5 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch-long pieces
- 1 cup dry red wine, plus more if necessary
- 5 cups organic chicken stock, plus more if necessary
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh thyme sprigs
- Wash the rabbit well under cold running water. Place in a stockpot with a tightfitting lid, cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook the rabbit for 15 minutes to allow any excess blood and marrow to seep out. Drain, rinse under cool running water and set aside.
- Cover the bottom of the same stockpot with vegetable oil. Add the vegetables and raise the heat to high. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the vegetables soften and begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium, add the rabbit and cook, uncovered, stirring to avoid sticking, for 5 more minutes or until the rabbit is evenly browned on all sides.
- Add 1 cup of the wine and enough chicken stock to cover the rabbit and vegetables (you should need about 5 cups of stock). Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring to a bare simmer. As soon as you see bubbles on the surface, turn the heat down to low, adjusting as needed to maintain a steady, gentle simmer. Cook until the rabbit is fork tender, about 2 hours.
Thyme is an antiseptic herb that supports overall health. It contains thymol, a volatile oil that helps relieve chest congestion and opens up bronchial passageways. Its carminative and anti-spasmodic properties also promote healthy digestion.