This dish combines some of the most delightful ingredients in a chef’s tool kit—fruity, delicate chanterelle mushrooms; homemade—or at the very least, fresh—pappardelle pasta; flavorful and juicy brined rabbit; and piquant, deeply flavored parmegiano-reggiano – with the time-tested method of braising. Pick your favorite bottle of Pinot from the cellar as it begins to peak and drift off into culinary and gustatory bliss.
1 (3 lb.) rabbit cut into 2 forelegs, 2 hindlegs and the saddle cut cross-wise into 2 sections. Use carcass for stock
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons coarse salt
8 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz diced pancetta
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
2 cups dry white wine
1 cup tomato puree
4 cups chicken stock (or make rabbit stock by roasting the carcass of the cut up rabbit and simmering it with the vegetable trimmings from above in 6 cups of water)
1/3 oz (about 1/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms, tied in cheesecloth to make a packet
Spice packet:: 2 juniper berries; 1 sprig each thyme and rosemary; 2 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick, tied in cheesecloth to make a packet
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced shallots
6 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, sliced into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Or if small keep whole or cut in half
3 tablespoons freshly grated parmegiano-reggiano
1 lb. fresh pappardelle pasta
1. Dissolve salt into vinegar and water. Place rabbit pieces in a bowl and cover with the brine. If brine does not cover rabbit completely, increase volume of ingredients proportionately. Cover the bowl and let sit in refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours.
2. Pre-heat oven to 325oF. In an oven-proof saucepan or Dutch oven just large enough to hold the rabbit pieces in a single layer, sauté the pancetta until lightly browned. Add the garlic and continue 2 minutes until golden brown. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion, carrot, celery and 1/8 teaspoon of the oregano, and sauté until the vegetables start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, tomato puree, stock, and the dried porcini in cheesecloth. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that develops, season lightly with salt and pepper and decrease the heat to a simmer.
3. In the meantime, pat dry the rabbit pieces with a towel. Season them with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour; shake off any excess. Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the rabbit and cook until golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes per side.
4. Transfer the legs to the sauce. Return the sauce to a simmer and skim. Cut a circle of parchment paper that just fits inside the pot and cut a 1-inch hole in the center. Place the paper on top of the rabbit legs and cover with lid. Braise in the oven for 35 minutes. Add the loin and continue braising for another 10 minutes until legs are fork tender.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the rabbit pieces to a dish. Remove the spice packet and discard. Remove the porcini mushroom packet and take the mushrooms out of the cheesecloth. Transfer them to a blender with 1 cup of the braising liquid and puree until smooth, then return the puree to the braising liquid. De-fat the braising liquid then reduce over moderately low heat to about 3 cups. When the rabbit meat is cool enough to handle, shred by hand. Do not chop with knife. Put the meat back in the braising liquid and keep warm.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pappardelle. In the meantime, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat, add the shallots, and sauté until the shallots start to caramelize. Add the chanterelles and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Season with salt and pepper. When water is rolling add pasta and cook until al dente, testing after 60 seconds.
7. Add the rabbit with the sauce, a splash of vinegar, and the remaining oregano. Toss in the cooked noodles, and 2 tablespoons parmegiano. Divide the pasta among heated plates, sprinkle with remainder of parmegiano and serve with Pinot noir.