One of my favorite summer dish is this family recipe for coniglio alla messinese (rabbit messina style). My great grand father was born in Sicily and when he moved back to my hometown in the North brought a couple of recipes with him and a love of eggplants that trickled down through my grandma to me.
So here is the recipe. It is meant to be made with rabbit and eaten lukewarm or even cold, but I won’t hold it against you if you prefer it hot or you decide to substitute rabbit with chicken. I know rabbit is not that common here and it might even be a bit scary to some, so if you need to, go ahead and substitute with chicken.
- 1 rabbit cleaned and cut in 6 pieces (substitute with chicken)
- 2 eggplants
- 4 stalks celery
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- Start by dicing the eggplants. Place them in a colander and add salt. Let the eggplants loose their water for about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile start roasting the rabbit. In a pan warm up some oil with a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Cook them until brown and then add the rabbit pieces. Sear the rabbit on all sides and then add white wine. Let the wine evaporate. Season the rabbit with salt and pepper and cover with water. Let cook for about 40 minutes adding water whenever the water gets low. The water is key to keep the rabbit moist, but is not needed if you substitute with chicken.
- In a pan add a couple of spoons of oil and a garlic clove. When the garlic is browned add the diced celery and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash the salt from the eggplants and add them to the celery. Cook on high heat until the eggplants are almost done. A minute before turning off the heat, pour the vinegar on the eggplants, let evaporate and turn off the heat.
- Combine the cooked rabbit with the eggplants and let them cool down. Serve the rabbit lukewarm or even cold (or hot if you cannot wait). It is delicious!