I have a feeling I will lose some of you here.
If you didn’t think I was crazy for suddenly taking up hunting or killing cute little squirrels, this may do it.
I kept the livers and heart (the only one I didn’t destroy with shot) from Monday’s squirrels. You may wonder why in the world I would do such a thing, or what in the world I was going to do with them.
The answer, of course, is cook them.
This whole experiment is about coming to terms with meat eating and the source of my sustenance; As the killer of those three squirrels, I feel it is my responsibility to make the best use of them I possibly can. That’s why I kept and salted their tails, to preserve the hair for tying flies. That’s why I slow-simmered those squirrels the other day, to cook them meat and get stock from the bones.
And that’s why I made dirty rice with squirrel livers and heart.
For the amount of thinking I do about cooking and eating, I have thought very little about offal– you know, the stuff that comes from animals that isn’t muscle. Not the tenderloin, roast, shank, ribs; I’m talking about the tongue, liver, heart, stomach.
The organs. The entrails. The stuff you remove in the field. What you leave for the coyotes. The gross stuff. The nasty bits.
Turns out, the nasty bits are not only edible, they can be tasty.
Last week I stumbled upon a recipe for wild game dirty rice on my favorite website (Hank Shaw’s Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook) and once I had my first game animals it was clear what I would do.
Before today, I’d only eaten liver twice before: Fried duck liver with pickled beans at Brewery Vivant– which was excellent and weird and tasty and wild– and fresh chicken livers when I was breaking down our ten freshly-killed chickens from Two Sparrows. I doused them in flour and pan fried them simply with salt and pepper. They were good.
It’s not that I love the taste of liver, but I want to love it. It may be hard for some to understand, but it bugs me when I don’t like things. There are so few foods I don’t enjoy. They are smudges on my otherwise clean record of edible things.
Plus, I have a feeling I’ll have a lot of offal in the coming months. If I kill it, I should learn how to cook it.
While yet another pot filled with squirrel pieces simmered on the stove, I prepared Hank’s Wild Game Dirty Rice dish– but instead of the waterfowl giblets he calls for, I used what I had. Tree ninja liver and heart.
And the results?
Well, I ate it.
But of course that’s not saying much: I will eat almost anything. It was good, not great. It is a nice rice dish, filling, and the minced offal gives it a very meaty flavor… As if I’d cooked the pepper and onions in bacon fat.
I’d say it was a moderate success: I will certainly make it again, refining my technique through repetition (aka practice). I suspect that deer liver or duck liver would be even better, but as I don’t currently have a license for either one of those animals, it will be a while before I can find out.
Do I expect every hunter to eat every part of every animal he or she kills? No, of course not. I realize not everyone has the interest or time to partake in my weird kitchen experiments. I probably have too much time on my hands; Not everyone can make stock from scratch on a weekly basis. It’s just not practical.
But until I can’t, I’m gonna do it.
I like to think of a simmering pot of stock as guerrilla warfare against cans of salty, processed Campbell’s soup. Home-cooked slow-roasted chicken a volley against quick convenience food. A vegetable garden and foraging a way to stick it to the man.
For me it’s about independence, self-sufficiency, learning new skills, and going against the grain of our broken food system. It’s not going to change overnight, but every little pot of stock and plate of liver is a step in the right direction, at least in my mind. Perhaps I’m naive to think anything I do will have any effect on anything or anybody else, but I’m going to keep on doing it anyway.