Field & Stream editor Anthony Licata has a confession to make: He proudly eats squirrel and serves it to his friends when they're not looking.
Squirrel hunting has fallen out of fashion in the Northeast since bagging a buck or a big tom turkey is far more desirable than bringing home a sack of bushy-tails. But squirrel hunting is surprisingly accessible. "All you need is a small game license in New York state," Licata says. "It's cheap. There's lots of great public hunting land upstate." And because of what they eat, he adds that squirrel meat is sweet and full of flavor.
If you happen to get your hands on a few of them, John Currence, the James Beard Award-winning chef of the City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi, shared this recipe suited to the flavorful meat of young gray squirrels. The gray squirrel is a prolific species, breeding twice a year with up to 8 young in each litter.
Pork Rind-Crusted Fried Squirrel with Molasses Red-Eye Gravy (Serves four)
Courtesy of Field & Stream magazine.
To make "pork rind powder," drop a bag or two of rinds into the blender and pulverize them until you have coarse, sandy-textured bits. Currence recommends Brim's "Hot Pork Rinds" and serves this dish with hot cornbread to sop up the red-eye gravy.
For the Squirrel
- 4 young squirrels, dressed and quartered
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1-1/2 cups lard
- 1-1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
- 3 cups all-purpose flour seasoned with salt, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder
- 2 cups pork rind powder (see recipe headnote above for tips on making rind powder)
- 2 cups milk
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3/4 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
- Salt, cayenne powder, and Tabasco, to taste
Tasso and Molasses Red-Eye Gravy
- 1/3 cup tasso or other thick-sliced ham, diced
- 1/2 cup bacon, diced
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1-1/4 cups beef stock
- 3/4 cup strong black coffee
- 1/3 cup Coca-Cola
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Generously season the squirrel pieces with salt, pepper, and cayenne; allow to sit for 2 hours.
2. Bring water, cider vinegar, onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to a boil, then boil for 15 minutes. Add the squirrel pieces and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the meat is cooked through but not falling apart. Remove the meat. Drain the vegetables in a colander and discard them.
3. To make the red-eye gravy: In a large cast-iron skillet or pan, saute the bacon and tasso over medium heat until all the fat is rendered. Whisk in the flour until it's well combined, continuing to whisk over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the beef stock, coffee, Coca-Cola, molasses, and red pepper flakes, bring to a simmer, and whisk constantly until gravy thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil and lard to 325 degrees or until a pinch of flour bubbles in the oil.
5. Whisk together the milk and eggs with a dash of Tabasco. Dust the squirrel in the seasoned flour and set aside. Add the pork rind powder to the remaining seasoned flour and combine well. Dunk the squirrel in the egg wash, then dredge them in the pork rind and flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Fry the pieces until golden brown, working in batches. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with gravy on the side, and cornbread if desired.