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squirrel aurora recipe

Braised Squirrel Aurora

If you have an old squirrel, which you can tell by the teeth, which are yellowy and separated, or by the ears, which are tattered, or by the feet, which look well-worn, braising is a must. Squirrels can live several years, unlike cottontail rabbits, which typically only last a year or so. This makes their meat a bit more complex and considerable denser. But an old squirrel can be tough if not braised. I almost always cook squirrels with some sort of nut sauce. Call me macabre. It's a luxurious, thick stew that cries out for crusty bread. The combination of almonds and olives is also a hit.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Spanish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Serves 4 people
Author Hank Shaw

Ingredients

  • 3 squirrels, cut into serving pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 25 green olives
  • Flour for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small hot chile, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, rabbit or other light broth
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes (optional)
  • Parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Toast the almonds in a dry pan if they are not already roasted. Pound them with the garlic cloves and a pinch of salt in a mortar; you could also buzz them in a food processor or chop them fine by hand. Pit and slice the olives in half or chop roughly.
  2. Pour the olive oil in a Dutch oven or brazier -- something ovenproof with a lid -- and heat it over medium-high heat. Salt the squirrel or rabbit and roll it in the flour. Brown the meat on all sides over medium heat. Take your time and do this in batches so you do not crowd the pan. Remove the meat from the pot as it browns and set it aside.
  3. While the squirrel is browning, slice the onion in half. Grate one half through a coarse grater, and roughly chop the other half. You could also slice it in half-moons.
  4. When all the meat is browned, add the white wine and broth and scrape off any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring this to a rolling boil. Here is a tricky part: You want to cook it down to the point where when you put the meat back into the pot, the liquid comes up only about halfway. You do not want to submerge your meat. How long you'll need to boil depends on the size of your pot.
  5. When the liquid is boiling, add the almond-garlic mixture, the chile and the grated onion. Mix well and let boil for a minute. Add the squirrel back to the pot. Make sure it is not totally submerged. Halfway is ideal. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  6. After 45 minutes, take the pot out and add the sliced onion, the olives and the potatoes. Mix everything together. If the stew looks too dry, add a little more broth -- but remember this is a "dry stew," not a soup. I eat this with a fork and a piece of bread, not a soup spoon. Add just enough broth to keep everything from drying out. Cover the pot again and return to the oven for at least another 45 minutes, maybe an hour. Check the meat and potatoes: The squirrel should be thinking about falling off the bone and the potatoes should be cooked through. When this is done, turn the heat off and let it cool -- covered -- for 10 minutes on the stovetop.
  7. To serve, spoon out portions and garnish with parsley. I'd drink a robust, complex white wine with this, such as a white Cote du Rhone or an older Chardonnay. An Italian Grillo might be nice, too, as would a Tocai Friulano.

Figure on one Eastern gray squirrel per person. Or you can use 2 fox squirrels or Western grays to feed 3 people, or 1 cottontail for two people. If you are not a hunter, 1 domestic rabbit will feed 2 to 3 people. And yes, you can use chicken thighs and legs, too.