Cacciatore is loosely translated as “hunter’s stew”, and is commonly made with chicken, although rabbit is often prepared in this way as well. In Italy, where the dish originated, cacciatore is made differently depending on the region. Some recipes call for peppers, some call for mushroom, some call for white wine. Almost all call for a base of onion, garlic, and tomato. In this version, I included a mild Italian sausage, and accentuated the fennel flavour by using fennel pollen, the extremely flavourful dried spice hand collected from the wild fennel plant. I highly recommend you sourcing fennel pollen; its flavour is unreal and packs a super punch in a small amount. However, if you can’t get your hands on fennel pollen, you can use ground fennel seed and double the volume.
Note: The recipe calls for a whole rabbit cut into six pieces. Ask your butcher to do this for you, as the job is best accomplished with a large cleaver.
Serves 4 to 6
3 sweet bell peppers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole rabbit, cut into six pieces (legs, saddle, and shoulder)
3 mild Italian sausage
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and finely sliced
1 cup red wine
½ tsp fennel pollen
2 tbsp capers
1 tin (400 gr) whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
to taste salt and pepper
- Roast the peppers to peel them. You can do this in a variety of ways. If you have a gas stove, you can roast the peppers directly over an open flame until they are black and charred. Alternatively, you can roast them on a tray in a hot oven, turning until all the sides are well cooked. When charred, place the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the peppers to steam. Let sit for an hour or until they are cool enough to handle. Rub the skin off the peppers (do not run them under water), and carefully pull the core and the seeds out with the stem. Remove as much of the seeds as possible, then slice the roasted peppers into 1-inch strips.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a large skillet over a medium heat, heat the olive oil. Season the rabbit pieces with salt and pepper, then place the pieces one by one in the pan to brown. Do not overcrowd the pan as that could cause the meat to steam. Turn the meat over to brown on both sides before removing and setting aside. Continue until all the rabbit is golden, then brown the sausages in the same pan. Once browned, set the sausage aside as well.
- Add the onions, garlic, and carrots to the same pan and cook for ten minutes, or until softened. Deglaze with the red wine and reduce by half. Add the fennel pollen, roasted peppers, capers, and chopped tomatoes, and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rabbit and sausage back to the pan to snuggle into the vegetables, then add just enough water to cover the meat. Cover the pan with a lid and place in the oven to cook for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the rabbit meat is starting to fall away from the bone.
- Remove from oven and taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary. Serve with soft polenta or pasta on the side.