The story of Easter

It’s always on Easter weekend I’m reminded that my friend Ty Fain used to love to ironically cook rabbit stew every Easter.

One year, knowing I was in Austin heading toward Big Bend where he and his wife Kate lived, he asked me if I could go to Central Market and pick up a couple of rabbits for his annual meal. I told him I’d be happy to, and he warned me that I should call ahead, as the store didn’t always stock them. So I called Central Market, and the butcher said he had 2 left and would hold them under my name.

When I got to the butcher counter the day before Easter, I took a number and waited my turn. Standing next to me waiting her turn was a mother with her two children. Soon my number was called, and I told the butcher “I’m Harold, I called about the rabbits.” The heads of her children whipped around with a horrified speechless expression, and the young mother said, “oh you sick bastard.”

The things I’d do for Ty Fain. I miss him, and I miss his rabbit stew.

When Kate Fain passed away, a friend gathered up all the recipes Kate and Ty had, and put it into a book which went to friends. I looked through the book, and sure enough, found Ty’s recipe for the rabbit stew. It’s a zerox copy of a newspaper clipping, but sadly, since the newspaper isn’t identified, I can’t give credit here to the publication, but there is indication that the recipe is contributed by chef Marco Canora. But for those wanting to make rabbit stew, I reprint it here. Just be sure that when you go to the butcher to pick up the rabbits, you do so more discretely than I did, especially around Easter.

Rabbit Stew with Olives and Rosemary (6 servings)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Two 3-pound rabbits, each cut into 10 pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup dry red wine

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 rosemary sprigs, tied into 2 bundles with kitchen string

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

1/2 pound Nicoise olives (1 1/2 cups)

1. in a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the rabbit with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, brown the rabbit over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until crusty all over, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to moderate for the second batch. Transfer the rabbit to a large plate.

2. Add the wine to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine into a cup, wipe out the skillet.

3. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the skillet. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and rosemary bundles and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rabbit and any accumulated juices along with the reserved wine to the skillet and cook stiffing occasionally, until sizzling, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups of the stock, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Add the olives and the remaining 2 cups of stock and cook until the sauce is slightly reduced and the rabbit is tender, about 20 minutes longer. Discard the rosemary bundles. Serve the rabbit in shallow bowls.

Make ahead: the stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

If you serve it on Easter, just don’t tell the kids what it is.

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