Yield 6 SERVINGS
- 1 Whole Rabbit Fryer, about 2 1/2 lbs, liver reserved
- Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
- 1 olive oil, chopped
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1/4 cup dry Marsala wine
- 4 sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Maui Maui
- 14 pitted prunes
- 2 cups Port
- 1 1/2 cups coarse bread crumbs
- 5 rosemary sprigs, 1 finely chopped, 6 left whole
- 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Swiss chard, blanched coarsely chopped (about 1 lb uncooked greens)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pound pancetta, very thinly sliced, unrolled
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Recipe notesFrank Stitt's torino recipe for boned and stuffed rabbit with prunes is based on a meal he enjoyed at small restaurant in Turin, Italy.
- Rinse the rabbit and pat dry with paper towels. Lay the rabbit on its back on a cutting board. With a sharp boning knife, remove the front legs by slicing through the shoulder joint; reserve for another use. Remove the shoulders and save them for a braise. Carefully slide your knife along the top of the rib bones nearest the stomach and work your way along the ribs, gently folding back the meat as you go. Once the ribs are free, slide your knife down the backbone; when you have exposed the backbone, use the tip of your knife to “ride” underneath the spine, freeing the meat as you go. Work your way down to the thigh and hip joint, free the leg and remove the thigh/femur and shin bone. The thigh will be “butterflied.”
- To bone the hindquarters, make an incision along the hip joint of the hindquarters and use the tip of your knife to work around the leg bone to the knee. Remove the leg bone at the shin and roll away the loose cartilage.
- Use a meat mallet to pound the meat evenly to about a 1/2-inch thickness. The tenderloin and hindquarter need the most pounding: it helps to make “butterfly” incisions in the hindquarter. Season the inside of the rabbit with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then add the reserved liver, shallot, and thyme leaves, and sauté until the liver is medium-rare, 7 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then deglaze with the Marsala, stirring up the browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the liver is medium. Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop the liver (discard the pan drippings).
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, combine the prunes and port in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and cook until the prunes are plump and the port is reduced to 1/2 cup syrupy glaze, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.
- Combine the bread crumbs, onions, chopped rosemary, parsley, liver, and chard in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Set an oven rack in the top third of the oven and Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- To stuff the rabbit, arrange the prunes evenly down the indentation left by the backbone, between the tenderloins, in a tight row from head to tail. Place the stuffing on top of the prunes, packing it lightly. Fold the flank and hindquarters up and over the stuffing, overlapping the skin. Overlap the two sides of the loin by about an inch; they will be a little tacky and stick together.
- Neatly arrange the unrolled pancetta slices side by side on your work surface, overlapping them a bit. Place the stuffed rabbit across the center of the pancetta slices. Lift the ends of the strips up and over the rabbit so that they overlap. Tie a couple of pieces of twine around the ends to secure the stuffing. Place the rabbit seam side down on a baking sheet.
- Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the rabbit reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer. The pancetta should be uniformly crisp and golden brown. Transfer to a rack to rest briefly.
- Slice the rabbit into 3/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on the plates. Garnish with the rosemary sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.