Welcome to another culinary journey into the heart of Portugal with PortuGourmet. Today, we’re going to explore a dish that’s as rustic as it is rich, as traditional as it is tantalizing — the Portuguese Rabbit Stew. Known in Portugal as “Coelho à Caçador,” this stew is a testament to the country’s love for hearty, comforting meals that bring families together around the dining table.
This dish, with its robust flavors of rabbit, bacon, red wine, mushrooms, and tomatoes, is a staple in many Portuguese homes, especially in the Estremadura and Ribatejo regions. But don’t worry if you’re not in Portugal — we’re here to guide you through the process of creating this delicious stew in your own kitchen. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and immerse ourselves in the art of Portuguese cooking!
The Recipe’s Origin
The Portuguese Rabbit Stew, or Coelho à Caçador, is a dish that’s deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of Portugal. The recipe originates from the Estremadura and Ribatejo regions, known for their fertile lands and rich gastronomic culture. These regions are home to many hunters, and rabbit, being plentiful and sustainable, is a common feature in their local cuisine.
The name “Coelho à Caçador” translates to “Rabbit Hunter Style,” reflecting the rustic and hearty nature of this dish. It’s a meal that’s typically prepared after a successful hunt, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The rabbit is slow-cooked in a rich sauce of red wine, tomatoes, and spices, resulting in a stew that’s bursting with flavor and depth.
But you don’t have to be a hunter to enjoy this dish. With our step-by-step guide, you can bring the authentic taste of Portuguese Rabbit Stew to your own kitchen, no matter where you are in the world. So, let’s get started and discover the unique flavors of this traditional Portuguese dish.
Ingredients and Preparation
The Portuguese Rabbit Stew is a dish that’s as flavorful as it is satisfying. Here’s what you’ll need to prepare this rustic and hearty meal:
- 1/2 pound thick-sliced slab bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- One 3-pound rabbit, cut into 8 pieces, liver finely chopped and reserved
- 2 pound of white potatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil, if needed
- 10 ounces mixed mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 3 medium yellow onions, cut in half and then into thin half moons
- 2 Turkish bay leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup dry red wine
- One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with their juice
- 2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, plus chopped leaves for garnish
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped sage leaves
- Heat a large pot over medium-low heat until hot. Add the bacon and let it sizzle until the fat is rendered and the meaty bits are crunchy, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
- Generously season the rabbit with salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and sear the rabbit in the fat, working in batches if needed, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- If the pot is dry add a drizzle of olive oil. Lower the heat to medium, add the mushrooms, potatoes, onions, and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply colored, 18 to 22 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Pour in the wine and let it burble for 30 seconds, then nestle in the rabbit pieces. Squash the tomatoes with your hands over the pot and add them along with their juice, the 2 parsley sprigs, oregano, and sage.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, add the reserved liver, and simmer, covered, until the rabbit is cooked through, about 1 hour. Toss the parsley and bay leaves. Taste the liquid and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
- If you’re so inclined, transfer the rabbit to a platter and with a slotted spoon scoop the vegetables into a small bowl. Turn the heat under the pot to high to thicken the liquid. Otherwise, arrange the rabbit in the middle of the platter and spoon the mushrooms, onions, potatoes and tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with the bacon. Pour a bit of the liquid over the top and serve the rest on the side. Shower the dish with parsley just before serving.
Variations and Tips
The beauty of a dish like the Portuguese Rabbit Stew lies in its versatility. While the traditional recipe is delicious on its own, you can also experiment with different ingredients and flavors to make it your own. Here are a few suggestions:
- Meat: If rabbit is not readily available or if you’re not comfortable cooking it, you can substitute it with chicken. However, keep in mind that the flavor won’t be the same.
- Vegetables: Feel free to add other vegetables to the stew. Carrots, bell peppers, or potatoes would all be great additions.
- Spices: If you want to add a bit of heat to the stew, consider adding a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Don’t be afraid to let the mushrooms and onions get really dark. This is a rustic dish, and the deep color will add a rich, woodsy flavor to the stew.
- When adding the wine, let it simmer for a few seconds to allow the alcohol to evaporate. This will leave you with the pure, rich flavor of the wine.
- If you want a thicker stew, you can remove the cooked rabbit and vegetables with a slotted spoon and then reduce the liquid over high heat.
Remember, the key to a great stew is patience. Allow the stew to simmer slowly to let the flavors meld together beautifully. In the next section, we’ll discuss how to serve and enjoy your Portuguese Rabbit Stew.
Serving and Enjoying Your Portuguese Rabbit Stew
Now that you’ve prepared your Portuguese Rabbit Stew, it’s time to serve and enjoy it. Here are some suggestions to enhance your dining experience:
- Bread: Serve your stew with a side of crusty bread. It’s perfect for soaking up the rich, flavorful sauce.
- Salad: A simple green salad would make a great accompaniment to this hearty stew, providing a refreshing contrast.
- Wine: A glass of Portuguese red wine would pair beautifully with this dish. The robust flavors of the stew would be complemented by the wine’s body and tannins.
Enjoying Your Stew:
- Ambiance: To truly enjoy your Portuguese Rabbit Stew, create a cozy and relaxed ambiance. Light some candles, play some soft music, and take your time to savor each bite.
- Sharing: This dish is perfect for sharing. Invite some friends or family over and enjoy a leisurely meal together.
- Leftovers: If you have leftovers, they will taste even better the next day after the flavors have had more time to meld together.
In the conclusion, we’ll wrap up our culinary adventure and encourage you to continue exploring Portuguese cuisine. Remember, cooking is about more than just preparing food – it’s about creating experiences and making memories. Bom apetite!