Cooking with Colton: Baby Back Squirrels - Sweet & Tender; Who Knew Bushytails Could Taste So Good?
Okay, so there is no barbecue sauce on this recipe and the squirrels aren’t slow cooked in a smokehouse. The recipe name is designed more to conjure thoughts of how easily that moist baby back pork rib meat slides off the bone. Squirrel prepared this way also slip off the bone easily. Unless you get the most grizzled, rutty old buck squirrels, this recipe leaves the meat delicate and succulent, terms rarely heard when dining on squirrel.
People who’ve never eaten a squirrel might just be converted with this recipe. It is a variation on the traditional Coq au Vin (chicken with wine). This recipe also works for rabbit, chukar, pheasant and, yes, even chicken.
Where the Outdoors Rambler mainly roams in Virginia, we have some very liberal squirrel seasons scattered from June to January with lots of opportunities to get a few bushytails for the pot. Colton and I used a Mossberg 715T, a "tacticool" .22LR rifle on a hunt to collect some squirrels for this dish. It's a great, lightweight fast-handling rifle with a 30mm red dot sight.
Just like any wild game, from deer to squirrels, proper handling in the field plays a big role in success in the kitchen.
Skin and cool your squirrels as soon as possible, keeping the meat clean. The three photos above show you precisely how to do that. Click on any photo to enlarge it. With a sharp knife and a one-gallon Ziploc bag in the field along with a frozen small pack of blue ice, you can quickly get your meat covered and cooled.
Here's the recipe (up-size ingredient portions proportionate to the number of squirrels cooked):
Ingredients & Preparation
2 squirrels cut into 6-8 pieces. Keep leg and shoulder sections together.
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 to 6 ounces (about 12 small) whole mushrooms
4 or 5 pearl onions
2/3 cup chicken broth
¼ cup dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning*
* We’ve used Konrico, Zatarain's and Tony Chachere’s brands of Creole seasoning. Seasoning salt and a little cayenne pepper can be substituted. This isn’t a spicy dish, so go easy on the cayenne.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour and pepper in a bag, add squirrel and shake to coat. Melt butter in oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the squirrel pieces and brown on all sides. Put squirrel with pan drippings, mushrooms, and onions into a baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over squirrel. Cover and bake for about 1 ½ hours until tender. Serves two.
Some say squirrel benefits from being soaked for a half hour in water with a tablespoon or two of vinegar. If they’re cleaned quickly and properly, we’ve not found it necessary, but it probably doesn’t hurt.
The recipe can easily be multiplied to feed a crowd.
Serve with seasoned collard greens for genuine down home “company vittles.” A side dish of wild rice and baby carrots also goes well. Keep plenty of napkins close by because forks are abandoned rapidly when enjoying this dish. Like good tender ribs, this quickly becomes food you eat with your fingers.
Squirrel cooked this way is delicate meat. Pair with a crisp sauvignon blanc or chardonnay from Virginia or New Zealand or a nice lager beer or light ale. For another excellent squirrel preparation, check out our video and blog about cooking Jim Crumley's favorite small game fish. Crumley, the inventor of Trebark camouflage has a winner with this one.