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Braised Rabbit

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil -- plus additional for garnish
3 rabbits (have butcher separate the front legs, loins, and back legs, leaving all on the bone)
Kosher salt -- to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper -- to taste
1 red onion -- peeled, minced
1 celery stalk -- minced
1 medium carrot -- peeled, minced
2 cups dry white wine
10 whole peeled plum tomatoes -- (canned or fresh)
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup pitted Niçoise olives
6 cups brown chicken stock -- more or less
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Minced zest of 1 lemon -- (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large, high-sided ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the oil. Salt and pepper the rabbit and add to fill but not crowd the pan. Brown on both sides, about 20 minutes in all, then transfer to a plate. Repeat until all the rabbit has been browned.

Add the onion, celery, carrot, and salt and pepper to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce by about half. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands or a wooden spoon, then add the rosemary and olives. Cook for a minute or so, and then fit the rabbit snugly into the pan. Add enough stock to not quite cover the rabbit and bring to a simmer.

Transfer the pan to the oven and braise, uncovered, at a slow bubble. Cook the rabbit, turning it once or twice, until it is so tender it almost falls from the bone, about 1 1/2 hours. Degrease the braising liquid if necessary and serve the rabbit with the chopped parsley mixed with lemon zest and a little olive oil.

This recipe yields 6 servings.

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