OK, contrary to what you have just read, I do not come from the Deep South, I come from Bromley by Bow. But having served up some squirrel for the first time ever to my family last night, I have to say that I really did get caught up in the romance of it all, this Appalachian style of cooking and spent the best part of the meal trying to converse in the appropriate manner. And have done so ever since. Which I think is starting to annoy my wife somewhat. Especially come bedtime last night, when I whispered into her ear, "Night, night, John Boy".
Of course, you don't have to carry on like an idiot redneck to appreciate the finer qualities of this woodland creature and if you haven't tried squirrel yet, then I suggest you do. I bought 4 of the ornery critters (along with some pheasant) from Wild About Meat, a small but very friendly game dealer based in White Roding, Essex last week and it took a while to decide what route to take. Because it is so lean, like rabbit meat, a lot of recipes suggest a bit of stewing or braising to ensure that it remains tender but during the consideration, I kept hearing the dulcet tones of the King himself reverberate in the back of my mind. So I went in for some deep frying, KFC style as it is an excellent method for sealing in moisture. Although keep an eye on the temperature if you can, my oil was a touch too hot at the start. As for the taste, well squirrel is in texture like a cross between chicken and rabbit but so much sweeter, delicious in contrast to the herby crispy crust from deep frying. And it didn't bother the kids one little bit that they were tucking into Tufty.
Deep Fried Squirrel (cook with Suspicious Minds blaring in the background) - serves 4
1ltr sunflower oil
100gms plain flour
2 tbsp of mixed herbs
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
healthy pinch of salt and ground pepper
pinch of chilli flakes
100ml evaporated milk (tip picked up from Valentine Warner recipe)
lemon, for a quick squeeze over afterwards
Heat the oil in a large deep pan (I used a stock pot) until it reaches 180c, I used the ol' drop a cube of bread in and if it browns in 30 seconds, it's ready trick.
Pat down the squirrel pieces with kitchen towel to ensure that they're really dry.
Combine the flour, herbs, spices, salt and pepper in one bowl and beat the eggs and evaporated milk in another.
Take a piece of squirrel and give it a thorough coating in the egg mixture and then dust thoroughly in the seasoned flour and place on a tray or large plate. Repeat (this can get messy)
When ready, pop your pieces of squirrel into the oil, large pieces first such as the saddle and cook in batches. I used a rough rule of thumb, frying the saddle for 10 mins, legs for 8 mins and arms for 5 mins. Or until they are nice and golden and cooked through. Take out with tongs when done and leave in on a tray covered in kitchen towel to soak up excess oil. Squeeze over some lemon.
Enjoy with potato wedges, corn on the cob and salad (suppose it really should come with gravy, grits, dumplings and peanut butter but the choice is yours)
Tufty disclaimer: these squirrels were grey NOT red