The very thought alone of eating squirrel will certainly put many people off giving it a try. The idea of consuming a tree rat as they are so often called may even seem totally repugnant. If you can actually get by any stigma, however, you will find that not only is squirrel an extremely tasty meat to eat, it is in many cases extremely inexpensive and can represent a very cheap meal. Although I've never seen it for sale in a local supermarket or store, I found plenty of options for ordering it online and have done so on several occasions from reputable wild game suppliers, cooking it up in a number of different, tasty ways.
One thing you do have to be particularly aware of prior to cooking squirrel is that because like so many other wild game meats it is extremely lean, it can be very dry if not prepared appropriately. The addition of the fatty lamb ribs in this recipe was principally to counter this issue.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- 1 whole cleaned squirrel
- 2 very fatty lamb ribs or a fatty lamb chop
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
- 1/2 large white onion
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pint fresh chicken stock
- 6 baby potatoes (or any quantity as desired)
- 1 small to medium carrot
- 1 tablespoon frozen peas
- 1/4 pound puff pastry
- Flour for rolling out pastry
- 1 small egg
- Trimmed green beans, quantity as desired
A Chinese style cleaver makes the job of chopping up the squirrel much easier but you can also use a robust, very sharp chef's chopping knife. Start by cutting off the four legs through the joints where they are attached to the main body. The head/body portion should then simply be chopped in half. There is no need to chop up the lamb ribs.
Pour the vegetable or sunflower oil in to a large pot and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the squirrel pieces only at this stage to the pot and brown and seal, stirring them around all the time with a wooden spoon. Peel and slice the onion half before adding to the pot with the lamb ribs and seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir fry for a further minute or so, just until the onion is softened.
Pour the chicken stock in to the pot and ensure that all the portions of meat are fully covered. If not, add some more stock or even some water until this is the case. Bring the stock to a simmer before reducing the heat, putting the lid on the pot and maintaining the gentlest of simmers for one and a half hours. Turn off the heat and leave everything as is for a further couple of hours to cool completely.
The potatoes should be washed but not peeled before being added to a pot of cold, salted water. The water should be brought to a simmer for around twenty to twenty-five minutes until the potatoes are just softened. Drain the potatoes, allow them to steam off for five minutes, return them to the pot and set aside to cool.
Cooked and cooled squirrel portions and lamb ribs are removed from poaching stock
Use a large slotted spoon to remove the squirrel and lamb pieces from the stock to a large bowl or plate.
Your fingers are best used to carefully pluck all the meat from the squirrel bones. Take your time doing this both to ensure that you do get all the precious meat off the bones and that you do not inadvertently incorporate any small bits of bone in the meat pile. Remove the meat from the lamb ribs in a similar fashion and transfer with the squirrel meat to a separate small bowl. Put your oven on at this stage to start preheating to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.
Peel the carrot and moderately finely dice. Stir it and the frozen peas through the meat before adding the combination to a suitably sized individual pie dish. Pour in enough of the cooled stock to approximately half cover the pie filling. Too little stock and the meat will dry out in the oven. Too much stock and it will cause the pastry to become soggy before it can cook and rise.
Roll out the pastry on a clean, dry, lightly floured surface to the required size and fit it snugly over the pie filling. Break the egg in to a small bowl, beat lightly with a fork and use a pastry brush to glaze the pastry. Cut a small vent in the center of the pie to allow steam to escape as it cooks. The pie should be sat on a large roasting tray to contain any potential spills and added to the heated oven for thirty minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden.
When the pie is ready, remove it from the oven and set it aside to rest for five to ten minutes while you prepare the beans and deep fried potatoes.
Start your deep fat fryer or a deep pan of cooking oil heating while you peel the skins from the cooled potatoes. You should find this fairly easy to accomplish and it doesn't take long. When the oil is heated, deep fry the potatoes for about five minutes until beautifully crisp and colored. Lift to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain off.
The beans should be blanched for a couple of minutes in a pot of salted boiling water before being drained through a colander.
Lift the pie dish to a serving plate, arrange the potatoes and beans alongside and serve immediately. What does squirrel taste like? Very similar to rabbit or perhaps like slightly gamey flavored chicken.