Like most Italian cooks, chef Luciano Del Signore uses high-quality ingredients to create perfectly executed dishes that revel in their simplicity. While it may not occur to many to use rabbit as a center-of-the-plate protein, it’s a common ingredient in Italy, where his family is from. Rabbit also happens to be a superior and abundant ingredient in Michigan, where the chef has an upscale restaurant, Bacco Ristorante in Southfield, and three Bigalora Wood-Fired Cucina locations.

“Rabbit is a staple food in Abruzzo, which is the part of Italy my family is from and where I spent a great deal of time as a kid,” said Del Signore, who has been frequently recognized by the James Beard Foundation as one of the best chefs in the Great Lakes region. “A lot of the ingredients here are traditional, but I boned it, which is a different presentation. I think it meshes better with the white tablecloth dining at Bacco and makes this a very elegant dish.”

Stuffed Rabbit (Coniglio Arrotolato)

Serves 4

For the rabbit:
1 rabbit (around 3 lbs.), deboned
25 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cups extra virgin olive oil
25 big sage leaves
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage meat
Salt and pepper

Ingredients to stew the rabbit:
1 large white onion
3 sticks of celery
2 large carrots
3 sprigs of rosemary
2 cups white wine
3 cups chicken stock
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

The day before, roast the garlic in a covered sauce pan tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, in a 275 degree oven until tender, golden and sweet.

Lay the boned rabbit on a sheet of saran wrap and season with salt and pepper. Line up the sage in four symmetric lines over the rabbit. In the middle of the rabbit, equally distribute the sausage. Lay two rows of garlic beside the sausage.

Roll the rabbit with plastic wrap and make it into a big sausage and put it into the freezer for 45 minutes to harden so you can tie it easier with a string. Remove the plastic wrap and tie the rabbit with butcher twine making sure it’s completely sealed.

In a large pan, brown the rabbit on all sides with extra virgin olive oil. When golden, set aside and in the same pan sauté the vegetables and rosemary.  When the vegetables are nicely caramelized put the rabbit back in the pan add the white wine and after one to two minutes add the stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pan with a lid and braise in the oven for 2 hours at 375 degrees.  

When ready, remove the rabbit from the pan, cut the strings and let it cool a bit before slicing. Strain the vegetables, then reduce the sauce to desired thickness.