Lepre alla Cacciatora (Hare Legs Stewed in Red Wine)


As I pointed out before, although both are furry and have long ears, a hare (“lepre” in Italian) is red meat and different from the white meat of a rabbit (“coniglio”). The recipe for Lepre alla Cacciatora (Hare Hunter’s Style, or in fact the wife of the hunter) is however quite similar to the recipe for Coniglio alla Cacciatora. Both are stewed in wine and tomatoes. The main differences are that hare is marinated and cooked in red wine with just a bit of tomato, whereas the rabbit isn’t marinated and cooked in white wine and tomatoes.

I made this dish to finish cooking the hare that we skinned and butchered by ourselves. The legs are even more gamey than the loins, and this recipe will produce a very strong-tasting deep brown sauce that is great with mashed potatoes and celeriac (celery root). As usual, please use a full-bodied red wine for this that is good enough to drink, since the taste of the wine will play an important role in this dish.

Ingredients


For 2 servings

the legs of 1 hare

1 bottle of full-bodied red wine, preferably Italian

salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour for dusting

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

8 sage leaves

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 juniper berries

1 bay leaf

2 cloves

4 fresh thyme sprigs

2 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste

250 ml (1 cup) hare stock

2 Tbsp corn starch

500 grams (1.1 lbs) potatoes, peeled and cubed

500 grams (1.1 lbs) celeriac, peeled and cubed

Preparation


Mix up half of the vegetables, herbs, and spices and put them on the bottom of an acid-proof container.


Add the hare legs and the other half  of the vegetables, herbs, and spices.


Add the bottle of red wine. The meat should be covered. Cover and marinate for at least 12 hours or overnight. It is best to stir halfway, otherwise you’ll end up with ligther spots on the meat where the vegetables and herbs were like I did.


Pat the meat dry with paper towels and sieve the marinade, reserving the wine as well as the vegetables, herbs and spices.


Pat the herbs, vegetables and spices dry with paper towels. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper and dust with flour. The flour will help to brown the meat.


Brown the meat in some olive oil in a casserole over medium high heat.


Remove the meat and sauté the vegetables and half of the herbs in the same casserole. (Discard the remaining herbs. Using all the herbs would make the sauce too strong.)


Add the marinade and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to get all the flavor.


Mix the hare stock with the tomato paste.


Put the meat and the tomato paste mixture into the casserole.


Bring to a boil and immediately lower the heat to very low. Let simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat is tender over very low heat. There should only be an occasional bubble rising to the surface, otherwise the meat will get too hot and will dry out.


Meanwhile, boil the potatoes and celeriac in salted water for 25 minutes or until tender. Drain the excess water after cooking. Mash to obtain a puree. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground white pepper.


Check with a fork whether the meat is tender.


Take the meat out of the sauce and puree the sauce with an immersion blender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Put the corn starch in a cup and add a bit of the hot stock.


Stir until smooth.


Use the corn starch mixture to thicken the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it boil for a minute until the sauce has the desired thickness. Then take off the heat and return the meat to the sauce to warm it back up.


Serve the meat and mashed potatoes and celeriac with the sauce on warm plates.

Wine pairing

This is good with a full-bodied Italian red such as barolo or chianti classico.

22 thoughts on “Lepre alla Cacciatora (Hare Legs Stewed in Red Wine)

      1. I have had it give a bit of an unpleasant purplish tint sometimes. I frequently use it in tomato based sauces (such as meat sauce for pasta) and it’s not usually a problem there, but I have had some less than appealing results elsewhere.

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        1. The purple may come from the sauce being too alkaline. One of the main colors in red wine are anthocyanins, a pH indicator that is red in a sour environment and purple in an alkaline environment. You’ll know what I mean if you remember this from science class, or if you’ve ever put vinegar or soap on beetroot. The latter will make it purple to the point of being blue.

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  1. The red wine sure did create a lovely sauce for your rabbit, Stefan. Although we do not use red wine in our braise, this method is closer to the way we prepare rabbit than was yesterday’s post. I’d love to try it sometime.

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    1. With rabbit (coniglio, white meat) I would probably use a white wine rather than the red I used for hare (lepre, red meat). Rabbit has a more subtle taste that might be crowded out by the red wine. I’m not surprised it is closer to your way of preparing rabbit, as I used a very Italian recipe 🙂

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  2. Stefan – this recipe looks delicious! I actually hunt hares but here in the US, wild game cannot be sold and while this does protect wild game from overhunting, one undesirable consequence is that there are so few quality recipes out there for wild game, and as such, our wild game get (wrongly) billed as “inferior” foods, which makes me sad so I am happy to find your site! A few questions:

    What kind of hares are they? In your recipes – and are they all same kind or different and what are they?

    And when you say 2 hare legs in the recipe, about how much meat is that by weight? Or even if you know approximately the live weight your hares that would help! (We have snowshoe hares here, and that’s what I will be using).

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    1. They are European hares (Lepus europaeus). They are the same genus (Lepus) as Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), but from a different subgenus, as European hares are Eulagos and Snowshoe are Poecilolagus. I would still expect the meat to be quite similar, but I have no experience with Snowshoe hares to confirm.
      Google tells me that Snowshoe hares are about half the size of a European hare.
      One European hare hindleg is about 350 grams (.8 lbs).

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  3. Also, regarding the wine in this recipe – do you cook the alcohol off first before marinating or do you just throw it in there raw?

    I used to love cooking with wine until recently when I tried to adapt some of my wine containing dishes to my instant pot (sorry if that’s lazy) That turned out horrid. Like bitter and weird. I think what happened is in the pressure cooker more alcohol was staying intact longer rather than boiling off like it would in a pan or open dish. Sorry if that’s obvious and a rookie mistake…

    But now I’ve become a little shy to use it, as I can’t be sure if the tannins or oakiness or anthocyanins (sp?) or something else was to blame.

    Since this recipe looks amazing and is a lot of work, I don’t want to foul it up, and I also want to understand this aspect of cooking better!

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    1. For the marinating it is fine to use the wine with the alcohol. When you are pressure cooking a recipe you should adapt the recipes. After adding the liquid to the pot, but before adding the meat, bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will eliminate the alcohol as well as concentrate the flavor. Only then add the meat and start the pressure cooking process. I think the most important factor that caused the bad result is insufficient evaporation. If you like cooking game, you should consider sous vide equipment as it makes it easier to cook lean meat (wild game is often lean) and pasteurize it (which is a good idea with game) without drying out. Check out my recipe for sous vide hare; you will see that there all of the evaporation has to be done before the sous vide process starts. https://stefangourmet.com/2018/12/27/hare-stew-sous-vide/

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