March Madness and Hare Stew

"Lepre in Umido" Served Over Polenta

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Murder, mystery, and forbidden desire in 18th c England

"Mad as a March Hare"

To basketball lovers, March Madness signifies the tournament season for men's and women's college basketball.

According to the Illinois High School Association's webpage, March Madness first appeared in print over 75 years ago. Henry V. Porter, who edited the IHSA's journal, coined 'March Madness' in an essay for the Illinois High School Athlete dated March 1939.

Years later, in the 1991 San Francisco Chronicle, the term was used again: "The nation is now in the middle of March Madness that time of year when the NCAA basketball tournament takes place."

The original term "March Madness" referred to the mating season for the European Hare. These gentle creatures are usually shy and predominantly nocturnal, but in the spring they run around in frenzied circles, crossing fields during broad daylight. Sometimes, they can be seen "boxing" each other; males competing against other males or females fighting off males. This pandemonium eventually coined the phrase, “Mad as a March Hare!”

In honor of March Madness: Tuscan Hare Stew (Lepre in Umido)

1. Prepare a marinade: 2 cups Tuscan red wine, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1t salt, 1t pepper, parsley, bay leaf, 2 chopped onions, 2 chopped carrots, I chopped celery stalk, 2-3 chopped cloves pf garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil.

2. Clean and cut hare into pieces. Place in marinade and allow to soak for at least 24 hours (48 would be better), turning the meat over about 2-3 times a day.

3. HOW TO COOK: Remove the meat pieces and pat dry. Reserve the marinade and set aside. In a deep skillet or pot, heat up a generous amount of olive oil and brown the meat. Remove the meat and set aside.

4. Sift a tablespoon of flour into the drippings and make a rue, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in the marinade and then add the meat. Cover and simmer over a low flame for 2-3 hours, stirring often. Add water or red wine if needed so the stew doesn't burn. Be sure to taste sauce to see if it requires extra salt or pepper.

When tender, serve over polenta (as shown in photo) or with roasted potatoes and a good red wine. Buon appetito!

C. De Melo
Author & Artist
www.cdemelo.com

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