My husband’s mom, like most every italian mama, is a talented cook with an equally talented green thumb. She noticed the wild fennel plant growing in our yard (now at nearly 6 feet high) and told me that finocchio is good with rabbit. “Oil, salt, pepper…” she says, then nods her head as if to say it was all there was to it. There’s no need for a written recipe but I offer my version with marsala that filled the house with a wonderful fragrance; even our dogs were sniffing at the air.
Rabbit is sold whole (with or without head, photo at bottom), in sectioned pieces, or heads only. Coniglio (koh-NEE-l’yoh) is as versatile as chicken, be it braised and served with polenta, stewed hunter-style in cacciatora, fried as in coniglio fritto, or in this case, roasted with fennel and potatoes.
3 – 3½ pounds rabbit pieces, or 1 whole cut into sections
4 large potatoes cut into chunks
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
a handful of fennel fronds, roughly chopped
4 – 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup marsala
coarse salt (I used hawaiian red alae salt)
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Combine rabbit pieces, cut potatoes, rosemary, fennel and garlic in a large heavy baking dish or cast iron pot with a heavy lid. Drizzle generously with olive oil, add the 1/2 cup of marsala, and season with salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix to coat rabbit and potatoes evenly.
Cover and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, removing the lid about 15 minutes before the end of baking time in order to allow potatoes and rabbit to take on a little color. Serve with a crisp salad of mixed greens.