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Braised Rabbit Ragu

2 Frying Rabbits -- cut into pieces
Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper
4 tb Olive Oil
1 1/2 c Onions -- chopped
1 c Carrot -- chopped
1/2 c Celery -- chopped
1 tb Garlic -- chopped
2 c Tomatoes -- chopped OR 2 c Diced Tomatoes In Juice (canned)
1 tb Fresh Rosemary Leaves, Chopped
2 ts Fresh Thyme
1/2 ts Whole Fennel Seed
2 1/2 c Hearty Red Wine
4 c Rich Chicken Stock
1/2 oz Dried Porcini, Rehydrated, Coarsely chopped
2 tb Shallots -- minced
3 c Wild Mushrooms -- thickly sliced
2 tb Slivered Sundried Tomatoes (Optional)
1/4 c Nicoise Olives -- pitted, sliced
1 ts Grated Lemon Zest
Polenta -- (recipe follows)
4 oz Gorgonzola Cheese -- cut in to bite size cubes
Fresh Chopped Basil Leaves

Dust the rabbit with flour and season liberally with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to an oven proof pan and brown rabbit pieces on all sides. Remove rabbit and set aside. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic to pan and cook until just beginning to brown. Add tomatoes, herbs, fennel seed, wine and stock and bring to a boil. Add rabbit, cover and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until rabbit is very tender and falling off the bone. Strain reserving all of the braising juices. Remove rabbit and discard bones and braising vegetables. Set rabbit meat aside. Place juices in a saucepan and reduce over high heat by 1/2 or until lightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

While braising liquid is reducing, prepare mushrooms. Add porcini, shallots and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to a saute pan and quickly saute until just beginning to color. Add fresh mushrooms and saute until softened. Stir in tomatoes, olives and lemon zest and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Spoon polenta in a large shallow bowl and make a well in the center. Place a portion of gorgonzola in center and top with boned rabbit and the mushroom mixture. Ladle reduced sauce over and around and sprinkle chopped basil over all. Serve immediately.

Polenta: 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, or water 1 cup coarse polenta corn meal 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a heavy saucepan bring stock to a boil. Stir in polenta slowly to prevent lumps. Reduce heat to low and with a wooden spoon stir regularly to prevent polenta from burning. Continue stirring and cooking for 15 to 20 minutes or until polenta is tender. Stir in cheese, parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. If too thick, stir in a little more stock.

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