Braised Rabbit with Olives

Makes 4 servings
Time: about 2 hours, largely unattended

Rabbit makes a nice change, but to say that it "tastes like chicken" is to acknowledge that neither, at least in their domesticated states, tastes like much of anything. They're both pretty much blank palettes on which we can layer whatever flavors we like.

So, if you can't find rabbit in your local supermarket, or you choose not to eat it, feel free to substitute a whole cut-up chicken in this classic Italian dish, which is best served-as Anna often does it-over a mound of creamy polenta.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (2- to 3-pound) rabbit, cut into serving pieces as you would a chicken
Salt and black pepper
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup white wine
2 to 3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup canned tomatoes, chopped (don't bother to drain)
12 black oil-cured olives
4 tablespoons (1.2 stick) butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the oil in a deep skillet or casserole, and turn the heat to medium-high. A minute or so later, when the oil is hot, add the rabbit, season it with salt and pepper and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary; the process will take about 10 minutes. Remove the rabbit to a plate, pour off excess fat, if there is any, and return the pan to the stove over medium heat.

2. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly colored, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the wine and raise the heat to high; scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits, and reduce the wine until there is just a tablespoon or two of liquid remaining in the pan.

3. Turn the heat down to medium, return the rabbit and any juices to the pan, and add the stock, tomatoes, and olives; cover and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the rabbit is tender but not falling off the bone (it tends to dry out at that point). Remove the rabbit, olives, rosemary, and garlic to a plate. Return the pan to the stovetop and reduce the liquid to a thick, sauce-like consistency (you want about 1 cup liquid) over high heat. Stir in the butter, pour over the rabbit, and serve.