After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.
~Mark Twain

Contrary to the usual, I will make a comment or so about my world. This past weekend, our ever comely daughter was betrothed to her long time mate near a cabin in a tranquil alpine meadow. The young groom was handsome no denying that — but that once girl was a ravishing, resplendent bride handling all with winsome white grace. No doubt I am partial, yet she was still flat stunning.

Families and singles of all ilks, kinds and ages (including our divine year old grandchild) trekked up the mountain, donned in their finest, milling about and conversing often with elbows cocked and drink in hand. My oldest son presided over a solemn, yet joyful, ceremony which united the two. Well, they were already connubial partners of sorts, so my middle son offered a prayer. Faces beamed with pride in the crowd. As the wedding party gathered near twilight, does and fawns even flocked to frolic and forage in nearby fields, intrigued by the evening’s happenings.

Pastoral, idyllic…and then the reception began.

Given that American Pikas (Ochotona princeps), closely related to rabbits and hares, are one of the more common species inhabiting the talus fields of the Rockies, and since last night’s committee meeting chat turned to rabbits, coniglio alla cacciatora came to mind. Densely furred, minute pikas have curious vegetal gathering techniques, devoting a sizeable portion of every day to garnering grasses, leaves, flowers, thistles, and the like. They maniacally dash out into their talus fields and gather mouthfuls of vegetation and pile it into tiny little hay bales to dry in the sun. Once dried, they bring it into their underground burrows for storage and eats during the lengthy alpine winter seasons.

(This rabbit chatter is not meant to foment any immediate procreative notions, you two.)

CONIGLIO ALLA CACCIATORA (RABBIT CACCIATORE)

8 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb crimini and/or shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
3-4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and gently smashed

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly julienned
1 medium carrot, thinly julienned

1 – 3 to 3 1/2 lb rabbit, cut into 8 pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 C dry white wine
1/2 C fine tomato purée or seeded fresh heirloom purée
1/2 C chicken broth
1 T red wine vinegar
1 bouquet garni of fresh rosemary, oregano, and thyme sprigs

Chopped flat leaf parsley or basil chiffonade

If shiitakes are used, they will need to be stemmed and sliced. In a large heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and smashed garlic over medium high heat. Once simmering add mushrooms, remove and discard the mushrooms then cook, stirring sometimes, until mushrooms are lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl.

In a large deep heavy skillet or heavy Dutch oven, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occassionally, until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a bowl. Discard garlics and wipe out the skillet or Dutch oven.

Season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper. Add more olive oil until heated to a simmer, add rabbit pieces and cook in batches, turning pieces several times until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes per side. Set rabbit pieces aside and lightly tent.

Add reserved mushrooms to the pan, and then add the wine. Increase heat to high and cook until liquid is reduced some, about 10-12 minutes. Add tomato purée and stir to combine. Add the broth, red wine vinegar, reserved vegetables, rabbit, bouquet garni and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium-medium low and briskly simmer, covered, stirring occasionally. Cook until rabbit is very tender, about 30 minutes. If necessary, remove the rabbit to a lightly tented platter or dish and increase heat the thicken the sauce.

Serve the rabbit on a festive platter or in separate shallow soup bowls over fresh pasta, then top with the sauce and finish with chopped parsley or basil chiffonade.

Pourboire: Some call for dredging the meat in seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika) before browning and braising. As usual, if rabbit does not suit your palate you can easily substitute a free range chicken.