Sunday, January 17, 2010

Acorn-Fed Free Range Rodent (censored for the squeamish)

In the last few years I have solidified my position as a carnivore. I don't really like steak THAT much, truth be told. I am committed to the IDEA of being a carnivore more than I am actually in love with the taste of red meat. Vegetarianism is great, don't get me wrong. Some of the people I love and admire most are vegetarians. But for me, somehow I feel that it is important for me as a homosapiens to pay a visit periodically to the food chain, if only to show it and my body that I do, in fact, still reside at the top. Doing otherwise would feel like letting down my ancestors who spent millions of years sharpening sticks and bringing down mastodons. Look, I never said I was normal. And the world would be a sad place without In-N-Out burgers, bacon, and chicken tikka masala.

My buddy D sees life the same way, I think. I know that we have both worried that our kids only have a vague idea that their chicken nuggets and Chinese beef and broccoli have their origins in an animal somewhere (not the broccoli, duh), but the connection is not clear. And if you are a regular reader in this space, you know that there is a glut of healthy, acorn-fed squirrels living in the oak trees in my yard. When D's wife H announced that she was hosting a Harry Potter party a few nights ago, D and I thought it would be a great idea to harvest one of the squirrels and serve it to the guests. Here's the documentation.

Before you read on, know that I have replaced the more gruesome photos with a cute book cover from Amazon. If you would like to see the real photo, you can click on the photo and you will see an enlarged photo of the real thing. Viewer beware--some of the photos show the insides of the animal. Also, you should know that the little fella passed on to the big oak tree in the sky quickly and quite painlessly. He lived a happy life right up until the last twenty seconds, when a foreign object traveling about 700 FPS passed through his liver and spine before leaving his body, with a spade handle finishing the job.

On with the show....


Shortly following the death, I put him in a freezer bag and buried it in the snow while I waited for D to come over and start the butchering.

D removing the squirrel from the bag.

The future meal, ready for what comes next.

Little pitch for my sweet knife here. It is a Spyderco Military S30V, a really beautiful and useful knife. Its open design allowed for easy and thorough cleanup after the job documented here. D Made a cut under the tail that didn't get into muscle or the digestive tract.

With that cut made, he stepped on its tail, grabbed it by the hind legs, and pulled. This essentially started to peel the squirrel's shirt up and off.

Shirt almost off...

Shirt off entirely (except for head).

Head and pelt removed and thrown away. We think the wound created a hernia, and in the final seconds some of the digestive tract tried to get out.

Checking the liver for spots. This is very important in assessing the squirrel's health. Spots would be a sign that we need to throw the squirrel away and wash our hands. This guy was very healthy apart from for the aforementioned hole in the liver. Notice the full stomach. It's the greenish balloon.

We cut open the stomach to show young E, who has expressed interest in the surgical arts as a career. Full of acorns and scavenged Iggy's bread. Healthy little dude. He had some fat stores, too.

Two legs ready for the frying pan.

Look closely and you can see the major blood vessels. No angioplasty needed here. Apparently eating acorns and chasing female squirrels around all day is a healthy lifestyle.

Brought the meat in to wash it in the sink. That's not dirt around the claws--it's residual fur. Feet were cut off and discarded.

D with the meat in a bag of ice and salt. Notice curious, curiously untraumatized, 8-year-old looking on.

We made a reduction of Trader Joe's concentrated chicken broth, white cooking wine, a splash of olive oil, and a few drops of Tabasco sauce. (Notice the brownies. They had to wait their turn.)

The legs going in.

Brazed legs on both sides, got nice caramelization from the reduction and meat before the slower cooking started.

Splashed some water, covered, and turned down the heat in order to cook through.

Hind legs took longer to cook through--they are thicker. The meat turned out beautifully. I feel that this cooking job respected the squirrel.

Eager kids(!) lined up for a bite of squirrel.

G's first bite. Squirrel on a toothpick? Who woulda thunk it?

The delectable R holding a leg.

Chewing it. It was very good. Best description is dark turkey meat. The reduction was heavenly, if I do say so myself.

The lovely L getting ready to tuck into a leg, as the Brits say.

Young A, with parents away in San Diego, tried squirrel for the first (and last?) time. And liked it.
G, laughing on the inside as a munches rodent.

G doing his best impression of Morrissey eating squirrel. Meat is Murder, dog!

3 comments:

Heather said...

Thanks for making the refreshments part of the party such a hit. And for the record, I told D to serve it up at the party...Accio squirrel!

mary ann said...

Dan,
I'm not clicking on any of those pictures, but I am with you and D on the kids knowing where their food came from. Will saw a whole roast pig when he was 6 or 7 and promptly became a vegetable-hating vegetarian. Three weeks later he told us his aunt had taken him to Carl's Jr and wanted to know "does it hurt the chicken when they take the stars out?"

R's Dad said...

Events like this are what lead people to becoming Democrats; reality is tough to handle. Why do Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone come to mind?