Craig Wallen, the chef at New York City’s ‘Cesca restaurant, does an amazing thing with rabbit: Employing an old Italian method of preserving meats and vegetables called sott’olio, he submerges rabbits in oil and slow-cooks them until the meat is tender and rich. Then he dresses the warm meat in a salad for a perfect counterbalance. The only difficult part of this recipe is pouring that much oil into a pot–but it’s worth it. Be sure to fish the garlic out of the oil for later: Spread the cloves on toasted bread for a killer snack.
– 2 whole wild rabbits, cleaned
– About 3 quarts vegetable oil
– About 1 quart, plus
– 1 Tbsp., plus 1⁄4 cup, olive oil
– 2 whole heads garlic, broken into individual unpeeled cloves
– 6 sprigs fresh thyme
– 1⁄3 cup, plus 1⁄4 cup,
– red wine vinegar
– 1 red onion, sliced
– 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1⁄2-inch pieces
– 4 cups baby arugula
– 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
– 1⁄4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved or grated
– Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rub the rabbits with salt and pepper and place in a Dutch oven. Pour in about three parts vegetable oil to one part olive oil, enough to fully submerge the rabbits. Add the garlic and thyme, and cover the Dutch oven. (A sheet of aluminum foil underneath the lid is a good idea.) Place in the oven and cook for about 11⁄2 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Let cool.
2. Meanwhile, combine the 1⁄3 cup red wine vinegar in a small saucepan with 1⁄3 cup water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Put the red onion slices in a bowl, and pour the vinegar mixture over the onions. Stir, add salt and pepper, then allow the onions to pickle at room temperature.
3. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over low heat in a saucepan, and add the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the carrots are tender but not mushy. Add salt and pepper, and reserve.
4. Make a vinaigrette: Put the remaining 1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar in a bowl and gradually whisk in 1⁄4 cup olive oil, until the oil and vinegar are thoroughly integrated. Add salt and pepper.
5. When the rabbits are cool, remove the meat from the bones and reserve.
6. To serve, reheat the rabbit meat in a pan with some of the oil, over low heat, just to warm through. In a large mixing bowl, gently toss the arugula with the red onions (drained), carrots, pine nuts, cheese, and about 3 Tbsp. vinaigrette. Divide the salad among four plates, and top with the rabbit, adding a few more shavings of cheese and salt and pepper as desired. Serves 4