Since it is a Vigil of a Feast (St. John the Baptist) I extended my Friday abstinence (and fast, as it turns out) to 1st Vespers. For breakfast, 2 poached eggs and half an English muffin, for lunch some pickled beets (love ’em). That brought a hungry me to supper.
Tonight I had scoiattolo in umido… squirrel braised in white wine.
I hate squirrels. When dead, however, they are rather well tasting. Tip: lightly killing them makes for a less agitated meal.
Here is the enemy, female, dubbed for the sake of this exercise, “Carol”, both from Sciurus carolinensis and in honor of the Catholic Health Association, lightly killed as mentioned before, then skinned, etc.
I also had a chicken breast that had to be either cooked or tossed. I opted for cooking and, in solidarity with Carol, dubbed the chicken “Margaret”. Of course country squirrel is better, right? I am sure Horace would agree… just to link it back to The Sabine Farm.
First, I butterflied Margaret open, though against my instinct I did not then beat her with a hammer. I then browned them both in olive oil and, nicely bronzed, removed them from the pan.
In the same pan, I sweated down a base of finely chopped carrot, celery, onion, garlic, all nameless. Then I added white wine (Sauv blanc) and chicken stock in about equal portions along with tarragon, thyme, a bay leaf, a generous grind of black pepper and a dash of cayenne. No salt.
I dredged the meat in flour and rejoined them to the base and liquid.
I was going to have Carol and Margaret with fava beans and a nice Chianti, but opted instead for rice and broccoli.
I covered the sisters’ pan and prepped brown rice – 1 cup of rice in 1 cup of white wine and 1 cup of chicken broth.
About 15 minutes into the simmering process I turned the meat.
When the rice was just about done, I put into the pan a large and equally nameless broccoli floret cut vertically in quarters, covered the pan, and let it simmer at very low heat.
Scoiattolo in umido. However, in this photo I had forgotten to dress up the rice with the wonderful self-generated sauce in the pan. Sorry, no photo.
Yum. It’s a lot of work to eat a tree rat, er um… Carol… but they are tasty.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are trying to ask, “Eeeeeew! What do they taste like?”
They taste much like rabbit. They are both a bit sweeter and a bit more intense than chicken, even real scratching-around chicken.
Afterwards, amaro Ramazotti and a Macanudo “Gigante”, given by grateful readers. I deeply appreciate them. I usually get the Hyde Park but I like this gauge better.
Perhaps you have your own Carol recipes, which you should feel free to share.
And Happy Birthday 1962 Missale Romanum! [puff… sip … puff]
While I enjoy observing the antics of squirrels year-round, and regularly read research articles about their memory feats regarding cleverly-cached food, you should know that squirrels that invade your domestic premisses and chew on your electrical insulation are creating conditions under which compromised insulation can lead to arcing from one now-uninsulated wire to another. The temperature of the arc is greater than that the surface of the sum. [Who said only man can make fire?]
Fantastic to see these cooking narratives and photos again. I really enjoy them!
Dispatching the squirrel in the least stressful manner possible could be accomplished with a 410 ga or .22 rifle. If you can hit the head cleanly, QED. If not, then a shot under the belly, not in it, to the limb or terrain where they are resting also does the trick with little mess and may not even break the skin. Avoid shooting anywhere in a part you want to eat, especially with the 410, pellets can be tricky to extract.
I used to shoot squirrels and rabbits in my suburban garden from my house. The hill sloped so sharply behind the kitchen window it formed a perfect backstop for the .22 LR I used. I would raise the window and walk back across the house to a bedroom. The sound of the shot was almost completely absorbed inside the walls while the bullet traveled down the hall, into the kitchen, out the window, across the lawn and through the rabbit/squirrel into the grass bank. [Worthy of a movie… shot. Sorry, I had to do it.] My daughter requested gloves and a hair band from the rabbits. My wife excels in that craft.
A much less sophisticated variation of your feast: Use a cast iron skillet with a lid or dutch oven. Heat on the stove top to frying temps with a tablespoon of oil. Brown the critter in the oil, remove and introduce the trinity to sweat. Add the chicken broth to deglaze then the meat and place in an oven preheated to 400 F. Let it cook for about an hour per pound of meat. This can be done on a camp fire. [Actually, that doesn’t sound less sophisticated at all. It sounds much the same, as a matter of fact, though my cooking temp was much lower and I used wine. 400º F? ¡Ay, caramba!]
Good idea not to use the fava beans and chianti. They go best with liver. Or so i am told.
So Fr Z, did you procure “Carol” yourself?
rcg: Good idea not to use the fava beans and chianti. They go best with liver. Or so i am told.
Suicide squirrels strike again
[For those who think these creepy little rats are cute – instead of as vermin which also eat their young – let’s see that whole story:]
I have yet to eat Squirrel, but my cousins-in-law are the stars of “My Big Redneck Vacation” and recently were shooting season 2 (now showing) in England, where they asked a French chef to cook squirrel for them. The English butler seemed very uncomfortable at the thought when they offered him a bite. [And yet he wouldn’t bat an eye at a dish of kidneys. Extraordinary.]
I may just stick with gator as the oddest thing I’ve eaten.
Sorry, that should have been “surface of the sun”, not “surface of the sum”.
Last week, I saw a squirrel in a trash receptacle in a prestigious location try four times to climb out of a plastic bag topped by multiple openings just slightly smaller that the smallest diameter of the squirrel. Eventually, the squirrel leaped out of the bag to freedom. This is a crafty critter. [Rats.] Make sure it does not enter your home.
I look forward to your culinary stylings on that great historical lenten dispensation: the humble capaybara. Enough rodent for when many friends drop in!
[Hmmm… a challenge meat! If you get one, I’ll come to cook it for a blognic.]
I love these food posts, but squirrel?! 4 years of Obama and this is what happens. I hate to see what Fr Z will be cooking up if Obama is around for another 4 years! ;-) [It has been a bad donation month.]
I don’t mind squirrels… except when they are digging in my herbs… but that doesn’t make me want to eat them. My grandmother gave me her cookbook from the 1940s; it has thousands of recipes, including recipes for squirrel, possum, pigeon…
[Save that cookbook, pal. If this clown is reelected, I’ll be in a camp or on the lam with my bugout bag snaring squirrels in the forest, and you … will be doing much the same.]
No Father, we’ll be eating dogs.
Do you have any coyotes in the neighborhood?
[Yes! We do. I have spotted several. I am waiting for Wiley to attempt a nearby chicken coop, which should be both noisy and amusing. You may have caught the faint strains of the rooster in my latest PODCAzTs.]
Fr. John Zuhlsdorf says:
23 June 2012 at 9:23 pm
rcg: Good idea not to use the fava beans and chianti. They go best with liver. Or so i am told.
And maybe the Goldberg Variations to set the mood. Yum.
[Great idea. My preferred right now is the recording by Murray Perahia HERE and UK HERE.]
Fr, you are right about it not being very different. The typical recipe from the hill country is just a hand full of thyme in the pot with the chicken broth. You stir the flour that escapes the meat during the browning phase to make a sort of roux add the thyme and chicken stock. The high heat breaks down the tough meat so it will cut like butter. You use the covered skillet or dutch oven because the cover keeps it from drying out. Remember, the animal is small and the cooking time is by the pound dressed out. It might only be a few minutes. If you cut back to 300 in a closed oven you will need to cook for a solid hour per pound but you’ll be able for cut the meat with a fork.
By the way, I am a good shot, but my mother, who taught me how to shoot, is a lot better. You do that shot so as not to bother the neighours.
[Women are often better marksmen than men. They tend to be steadier when they have a weapon that is the right weight.]
I like to cook squirrle but I hate cleaning them. Vise grips in a vise to pull the skin is best I have found and then will unsure success.
[For the readers out there who are now motivated to kill and eat these critters, there are some great youtube videos for how to skin squirrels.]
The classic Civil War recipe is allegedly squirrel (or rat) nailed or tied onto a board. You set up the board close to the fire, and the meat cooks. I’m not sure how they turned it over when the front was done.
You and the rest of these guys are BARBARIANS!!!
[I guess that is a “no” vote for scoiattelo in umido. You are a vegan, right?]
I grew up on squirrel, rabbits, quail, pheasants, deer, bear, and whatever, as my dad and his male family companions were intrepid hunters, with both rifle as well as bow and arrow. I remember my mother and grandmother cleaning such, but I never had to learn.
I shall eat almost anything and squirrel was good. However, living in the city, I have not cleaned nor eaten squirrel in a long time. They are probably protected in London.
“the humble capaybara. Enough rodent for when many friends drop in!”
“Rodents of unusual size? I don’t believe they exist!” (The Princess Bride)
Carol looks like a pretty tiny snack. I think I would have still been hungry.
I used to live next to a girl from Kentucky who told me she used to have “Squirrel’s Head Stew”. I remember the family well, because her sister’s real name was Peggy Sue. Anyway, no thanks, to the squirrel’s head.
I have recently watched a video on how to butcher and clean a chicken, and I can’t believe I watched it. It wasn’t as bad as I would have thought. As part of overall preparedness, it’s good to always have “alternate food sources” available, including local wild edibles. If, God forbid, you are ever in a situation that calls for it, you’ll eat it.
Speaking of surprising animal behaviors, helpful when one is feeling sentimental about them, as I typically am, I remember being appalled at the behavior of love birds, when I was a teenager and worked in a store. I came in one morning to find a weak parakeet bought it during the night, and the love birds were eating him! My illusions about birds were over. I guess many animals can be carnivores. It’s all a matter of need and opportunity. Ugh.
Fr. Z., salud! Buon appetito!
Oh, I forgot to say, entertaining comments everyone!
Charles Flynn, I would have hurled if I had seen what you saw, with the fledgling robin. Gross!! Who knew!
Love the idea of somebody shooting through the house and actually hitting something. Amazing shot. Nobody else was in the house right? (I have a visual of grandma ducking shots)
I’m not a vegan but I’m not courageous enough to give squirrel a try. I’d like to comment on the fava beans instead.
Years ago, I worked for a group of sisters from an international order. Their convent was attached to the school they ran and the sister in charge of K.P. was born and raised in Portugal; an elderly woman with a thick accent. I loved her cooking and she was happy to share her dishes with me. Her soul food was the best fringe benefit of that job and nothing could top a big yummy, steaming bowl of her “favish” on a cold day.
I was not smart enough to ask her for her recipe, but here’s one from chef Emeril Lagasse (also Portuguese) instead. Judging by the ingredients (and the memory of my taste buds), it’s almost the same.
I am reading this with my jaw dropped to the floor…probably the most hilariously yucky post ever. The visuals are just…wow. LOL!
lisajulia — the only yucky part of this post was reg’s reference to Hanibal the Canibal – liver + Chianti – hilarious!!
How does one “lightly” kill a squirel? (shot in the head?)
Some birds do an excellent job of keeping squirrels away from their nests, I’ve observed. Bluejays dive-bomb the squirrels’ heads, and starlings get up real close and scare the hell out of them. Squirrels are hideously destructive to leaves, bulbs, flowers, etc., and they like to leave their droppings on our balcony. They do look cute, however, chasing each other up and down the trees, especially during love season (which comes rather often for squirrels, I think). And since they’ll eat anything, they (and rats) are useful for getting rid of the fast food that the lower-grade residents of our neighborhood throw onto the sidewalk.
@New Sister: actually , Fr. Z started it with his fava beans and chiati line.
Banshee, there is a French cooking technique that Civil War recipie may be using. Instead if tacking the animal to the board as if you were laminating it, you affix one claw or bone through a gable tendon like the Achiles and the animal dangles at right angles to the board or stick which is mounted very close but beside the fire. Fat drips to the side, perhaps into a cup, and not into the fire for flare ups. The animal can be twirled or the board or stick moved to expose the other sides to the heat. This is used in hearthside Provençal cooking especially for fatty meats.
Random Friar, funny you should mention the capabera for I have the same thoughts about the percarie. I figure any animal that flees on sight with such haste knows in its heart it is good to eat. I am going to Honduras in a couple of weeks and will see if we can snag one and determine the truth.
You’ve made carol look delicious. I detest squirrels. They steal the bird seed. They are in abundance in the woods/ravine behind our house. They used to scare at a tap on the window – no more. They look at me now; daring me. I wish I could eat them for revenge! [You can, you know.]
My family is from West Virginia and my paternal grandfather used to make a sauce which was known as “squirrel brain gravy.” I don’t remember eating it, I don’t remember eating squirrel. I do remember watching my uncles dress plenty of venison and turtle, and my grandmother wringing chicken’s necks and helping to pluck the chickens. There is a varient Creutzfeld-Jacob disease (the nongenetic version of Mad Cow Disease in humans) that is seen in Kentucky and Tennessee and it is felt to possibly be related to the prions found in squirrel neural tissue. So…since prions are even denatured by heat, please be careful when you dress your squirrels that you don’t contaminate the meat with brain or spinal cord tissue. We need you with your full faculties!
Oops…I meant “not denatured by heat.” ((blush))
In principio – Happy Name Day. And Many Years, Fr Z!
A.D., I’m no barbarian. Have never eaten a barber.
Sitting here eating my supper am tremendously enjoying this post. Have wanted to try squirrel for years. A good friend keeps promising….
Thank you, Charles E Flynn, for your insightful comment.
Squirrels ate the face off my hand-carved statue of the Sacred Heart in a shrine in the garden. Next time, plexiglas in front.
My family are also all avid hunters. At a recent family gathering, a teen-age nephew was trying to skip KP, claiming that the leftover food on the dishes was making him sick. His mom pointed out that he had no trouble killing and gutting a deer, so get back to work.
Speaking of deer- they are the worst of suburban wildlife. They wreak havoc on landscapes and gardens, leap through your windshield and knock you off your bike, breaking your hip. Otoh, they do not eat cats, small dogs or chickens or set your house on fire by chewing on the wires and they are very tasty.
Skeinster…the squirrel made a direct attack on your religious freedom! This is the Fortnight man, dispatch! Dispatch!
I’m not telling the truth. I think they are dearly cute. But if in my attic, no mercy. Well, little mercy.
Wow, I never considered squirrel for fancy preparation. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, did a fine job with stewing the squirrels and making dumplings. That was the way to deal with the tough, stringy meat. As I recall (it was almost 40 years ago), squirrel and dumplings were tasty. Stewing also worked for wild rabbit (domestic rabbit was a lot more tender and could be cooked a bit more creatively).
You ate SQUIRREL, Father Z?!? Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess….
I’ve never seen ‘Frozen Squirrel’ in the meat counters of any grocery store of my acquaintance.
But I do like your ‘naming’ the squirrel and the chicken after the so-called ‘sisters’ who have been in the news lately-pretty clever!
My mother’s family (immigrants from Germany) had a little farm ‘in the city’ (it was still countrified back when she was young), and so they may have had some rather creative recipes like squirrel meat…it was the 1920s and 1930s, after all. Never thought of asking her or any of her siblings if they did…..
For you musical lovers out there, this is also the night when Modest Mussorgsky completed his famous composition, St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain (more commonly known as “Night on Bald Mountain”).
As for the food, I would like to try squirrel, but where does one get squirrel if he cannot hunt one himself?
Annette–your mention of squirrel brains brought to mind a long forgotten memory of my Ohio born grandfather. He was very reserved so it was my grandmother who told us he used to eat squirrel brains.
How many make a meal I wonder?
You wouldn’t want to shoot them in the head I guess.
My father inherited his dad’s little squirrel rifle.
I haven’t thought of that for years!
Perhaps your next rodent-cooking adventure could be a take on the Andean specialty “cuy”–better known to English-speakers as guinea pig. In the mountain regions of Peru they are typically roasted on a spit but could probably be braised as well. Guinea pigs are wild in the Andes, but people here might frown on buying one from the pet store for the purposes of skinning and roasting it.
@ La Sandia: First squirrels, now guinea pigs. I can understand squirrels because they can be destructive (example: chewing the face off hand-carved statues as per Skeinster), but guinea pigs?
Next thing I’ll read will be killing, cooking and eating dogs. Now that’s where i draw the line as a dog lover!
I’ll end up being a vegetarian….
Apparently, Fr. Z, you can also eat prairie dog and desert rat, and I suggest two things. Getting a Dutch Oven and practicing survival cooking of squirrels (outside, of course) and publishing a book for Survival Eating for Squeamish Catholics. What do you think?
Would you eat Basil? Am I the only commentator that feeds him? He is always hungry.
PS make sure you scroll all the way down on the prairie dog recipe–very important!
A survival cookbook cannot, at present, be on my list of things to work on.
I would, by the way, not eat Basil. Basil isn’t real. Though were he real, I am sure he would be good eating.
Of course, virtual eating would be very boring…
Some kind of hot sauce should be in everyone’s survival kit.