Before embarking on this recipe for Hassenpfeffer (braised rabbit with leeks German style) a disclaimer of sorts is in order. Rabbit isn’t to everyone’s taste. It wasn’t to mine for a long time after a first encounter with a neatly skinned and split creature, posed as if in mid hop, grilled and glistening. There may have been cherries involved.
It was at the type of highly regarded Napa Valley restaurant where it’s expected one be grateful for the chef’s virtuosity.
But that’s not the way things turned out.
And as the years passed it was easy to skirt further encounters as opportunities to feast on a Peter or Bugs or Roger are relatively few and far between.
Then one evening a group of brothers and spouses and aunts and uncles were knocking around Tuscany following cousin Andy’s wedding to the radiant Paola. The wondrously beautiful and romantic nuptials took place at her family’s home Castello di Montalto, a 1,000 year-old castle in the Chianti county side nestled in 650 acres of certified organic wheat, sunflowers and olive groves.
It was nice.
That’s how we found ourselves in some ancient yet meticulously maintained cellar in Sienna, sitting on low wooden stools at long rustic tables. No one spoke any Italian which of course was inconsequential. Language barriers in Italy are but momentary inconveniences soon overcome by hosts’ and guests’ desire to have a pleasurable evening.
Actually it was almost inconsequential.
The meal was long ended before we understood what made the splendidly savory mixed meat stew — Scottiglia — so terribly delicious. It was the coniglio. You guessed it, yes, rabbit.
Prejudices shattered, there was no looking back. The praises of this delectable dish had been loudly sung particularly because of its indescribable otherness.
And that otherness now had a name.
Maybe it’s genetic. Amid all these Irish (and now Italian in-laws) not too far up our family tree are some weighty branches of Ludwigs and Zapps. Germans could well lay claim to the most celebrated rabbit dish of all, Hassenpfeffer. In this Sullivan/Ludwig/Zapp rendition the traditional German braised rabbit stew is covered with a thick carpet of chopped leeks which melts into the sauce during a long slow simmer.
Totally delicious. Spectacularly so in fact. Toothsome enough to turn your skeptics into converts.
Click here for the recipe for the Hassenpfeffer mit Lauche (German braised rabbit with leeks).Print This Post