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Braised Rabbit in Spiced Red Wine Sauce

1/2 lb bacon, finely chopped
5-6 lb rabbit (or 2 smaller) cut in serving pieces
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 C flour
1/2 C minced shallots
1 t minced garlic
1 C dry red wine
1 C chicken stock
2 T brandy
1 t currant jelly
1 bay leaf
1/4 t dried rosemary
1/2 t dried thyme
2 t fresh lemon juice

In a heavy 5-qt flameproof casserole dish, cook the bacon over
moderate heat, stirring and turning it frequently, until it is
crisp. Spread the bacon out on a double thickness of paper towels
to drain and set the casserole with the bacon fat inside.

Wash the rabbit quickly under cold running water and pat it thoroughly
dry with paper towels. sprinkle the pieces with salt and pepper,
then dip them in flour and shake off any excess. Heat the bacon
fat in the casserole over high heat until it splutters. Add the
rabbbit, a few pieces at a time, and brown them on all sides,
regulating the heat so that they color quickly and evenly without
burning. As they are done, transfer the rabbit pieces to a plate.
Pour off all but 2 talespoons of fat from the casserole and in it
cook the shallots and garlic, stirring frquently, for 3 or5 mins,
or until the shallots are soft and transparent but not brown. Pour
in the wine and stock, and bring to a boil over high heat, meanwhile
scraping in any brown bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the
pan., Stir in the brandy, currant jelly, bay leaf, rosemary and
thyme, and return the rabbit and any juices collected around it to
the casserole, Add the drained bacon, cover the casserole tightly,
and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hrs, or until the rabbit is
tender but not falling apart (smaller rabbits may cook faster, so
test for tenderness after 1 hr cooking). Pick out the bay leaf,
stir in the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. the sauce should
be quite peppery; add more pepper, if necessary, to taste.

Serve the rabbit directly from the casserole, or arrange the pieces
attractively on a heated platter and pour the sauce over.

NOTE: Traditionally, the sauce in which the rabbit is simmered is
thickened, just before serving, with the rabbit's blood. If you
hunt and dress your own rabbit, save the blood. Stir into it 1 or
2 tlbs of vinegar to prevent it from clotting and refridgerate
until ready to use. Stir the blood into the sauce after the rabbit
is cooked, then simmer gently, stirring all the while, for 3 or 5
minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly, Be careful not to
let the sauce boil. Taste for seasoning and serve.


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