No rodents around? Ian says you can also make the cacciatore with chicken or rabbit.
Groundhog (or Chicken or Rabbit) Cacciatore
(From Ian Knauer’s The Farm)
All the lettuce . . . was . . . gone. So was the cauliflower and all the soybeans. This could only be the work of one thing: a groundhog. During the spring, several holes had been dug under the garden fence. I tried to fill them with rocks and dirt, but to no avail. Once my vegetables started vanishing, I knew there was only one solution. On an afternoon — a tranquil one — the greedy, well-fed groundhog popped its head up to scope out the garden’s offerings. I shot him dead. Then, I felt terrible. He was so cute, and really, who doesn’t love fresh vegetables for lunch? I made up my mind to cook him instead of letting him waste away in the field.
Groundhog meat is very much like rabbit, so I put the meat to use in a cacciatore, the tomato-based Italian hunters’ stew. This recipe works just as well with rabbit or chicken and is completely comforting when served with some roasted potatoes or creamy polenta.
1 groundhog, skinned, gutted, and quartered, or chicken or rabbit, quartered
Kosher salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped, or 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
3 tablespoons chopped brined capers
2 strips fresh orange zest
2 anchovy fillets
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Remove the grayish glands from underneath the groundhog’s front legs (you may have to cut into the meat to find them). Pat the groundhog dry and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 3⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown the meat well on both sides, in batches if necessary, about 6 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onion, carrots, and garlic to the pot and cook until the vegetables are browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and boil until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, capers, orange zest, anchovies, and bay leaf, then nestle the meat into the sauce. Simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, 11⁄2 to 2 hours.
When the meat is tender, remove it from the pot, leaving the sauce in the pot. Simmer the sauce until it is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the butter. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste, remove the bay leaf, and return the meat to the pot. Serve in shallow bowls.