This dish when mentioned in certain circles has an almost mythical aura about it. Usually served in cozy mountain tavernas with dramatic views. Rabbit stifado is truly worthy of the hype, and for the squeamish among us, worth braving the fear factor. I must confess, I dubbed this “chicken stifado” so that the dish could actually get a fair taste from my family before it was categorically rejected on literary grounds (i.e. Peter Rabbit). Beef stifado is a common winter staple here in Greece, but I much prefer the delicate flavours coaxed out of our furry friend after a few hours in the oven.
What you need:
- 1 rabbit (about 1-2 kg) cut into about eight pieces
- 1/2 bottle of red wine
- 1 litre of grated tomato pulp (you can use commercially prepared tomato if needed)
- 3/4 kilo small pearl onions skinned and left whole
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 5 cloves of garlic smashed and chopped fine
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 of the onions studded with 4 cloves
- 1 allspice berry
- 1 tsp coriander crushed
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- Olive oil for browning the rabbit and caramelizing the onions
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
How it’s done:
- Marinate the rabbit overnight with the wine and the bay leaves.
- Remove the rabbit from the wine and pat dry with a paper towel (reserve the wine).
- In an oven proof pan, evenly brown the rabbit with a little olive oil.
- Add the tomato pulp, the clove-studded onion, half the reserved wine, garlic, tomato paste, rosemary, allspice, coriander, and the cinnamon sticks. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble away for about an hour.
- While the rabbit is simmering, over low heat gently caramelize the onions in the butter and a splash of olive oil.
- When the onions become translucent add the sugar and continue to cook until they are completely caramelized. When done set aside.
- Add the onions to the tomato mixture, topping up with a little more of the reserved wine.
- At this point place the whole pan into the oven at 180C (350F) and cook for about another hour or so until the meat falls off the bone and the sauce is thick and rich (see picture below).
- Remove the bay leaves, rosemary sprig, allspice berry and the cinnamon sticks.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve over rice or hilopites with a nice glass of Syrah or Cabernet.