Author Notes: Porchetta is usually made from a whole hog or whole pork middle, boned, seasoned generously with garlic, fennel and herbs, then rolled, tied and roasted. It is a thing of beauty, a great big thing, best cooked for a big hungry crowd. This miniature version of the original, made with rabbit, follows the traditional porchetta principles of rolling a roast with spices, garlic, citrus and herbs. While still loaded with porchetta flavor, it is scaled for everyday dining and can be prepared in a fraction of the time. —Toponia Miller
large stewer rabbit, 4 to 6 pounds
cloves of garlic pounded to a fine paste in a mortar and pestle
freshly ground black pepper
tablespoon fennel pollen
zest of 2 lemons
cup chopped herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, parsley and sage
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Bone the rabbit. Lay the rabbit on its back and check its abdominal cavity for kidneys or livers (they are often left attached). If either is present, remove them with a sharp knife and set aside. Remove the forelegs by using your hands to gently pry them away from the body. Then cut them off completely by following the natural seam under the foreleg. Reserve the forelegs for another use. Starting at the neck end, working with your boning knife against the rib cage, remove the meat from the bone. When you reach the loin area, curve the tip of your knife around the loin until you hit the backbone. Repeat this process down the length of the rib cage until you reach the back legs. Remove the backbone by severing the tip of each vertebra while simultaneously pulling the rib cage away from the rabbit. Take care not to pierce through the meat. Separate the leg bones from the hip socket by gently popping them out of the socket from behind. Remove the bones from the legs on both sides, taking care to only cut as deep as the bone.
- Lay the completely boneless rabbit out on your work surface and rub the inside with the pounded garlic and lemon zest. Season both the inside and outside of the rabbit with the salt, pepper and fennel pollen then sprinkle the chopped herbs over the interior. Roll the boneless rabbit tightly around itself lengthwise. Tie with butcher’s twine at 3-inch (7.5 cm) intervals. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one to three days.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Place the roulade on a rack fitted onto a roasting pan and lightly rub olive oil all over. Roast for about 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 140°F (60°C) when inserted into the thickest portion of the roast. Remove from the oven and allow the roast to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into half-inch (1.25 cm) thick rounds. Strain the pan juices and spoon over the sliced meat.