- Keith Sutton
- 0 Shares
"Squirrel and dumplings" rank high on my list of all-time-favorite wild game dinners. My mother and grandmother often prepared this delicious, filling meal when I was growing up, and I still get a hankering for it when autumn starts chilling the air.
Preparation is simple and inexpensive. Take a tough old squirrel, or a young one if that is all you have, and stew it for several hours in seasoned broth, until the sweet pink meat falls from the bones. Remove the bones from the broth, then take the dumplings you prepared earlier and drop them in the pot with the meat. Allow the dumplings to cook a few minutes until the stock has thickened, and you will have before you a glorious dish that will titillate the taste buds of even the most jaded diner. Serve in large soup bowls with a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh parsley on top and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Tradition dictates that you include on the side several slices of light bread for sopping up the rich gravy.
I admit to being a bit zealous when it comes to my squirrel and dumplings, but I am no less fervent in expounding the virtues of a spicy squirrel jambalaya prepared in a black-iron skillet over a campfire, or a fried young squirrel served with cat's-head biscuits and milk gravy, or marinated squirrel grilled until it is pink and tender over a smoky fire. Squirrel is scrumptious no matter how you serve it up, and there seems no end to the variety of mouth-watering recipes one can create using these delectable small-game animals.
When America was first settled by white men, the abundance of squirrels amazed our forefathers. The country was rich with mast-laden hardwoods, and the forests teemed with fox and gray squirrels.
Not surprisingly, squirrel was the meat of preference served on many pioneer dinner tables. In fact, some experts say the demand for squirrels brought about the development of the famous Kentucky rifle, an extremely accurate weapon capable of putting a ball through a squirrel's head at 50 yards.
Today, squirrels are still highly regarded for their excellent table qualities. Fox and gray squirrels both provide mildly flavored meat similar in quality to cottontail rabbit or chicken, and each is a gourmet's treat when handled correctly from woods to table.
There is no need to field-dress the squirrels you take; their small size allows them to cool quickly. It is best, however, to hang them from a split thong or cord attached to your belt, and avoid the warm interior of your game bag, especially when hunting during warmer parts of the season.
The task of skinning frustrates many beginners because the squirrel's tough skin is stubborn to remove. It's easier done with two people who pull the squirrel's "pants" and "shirt" in opposite directions after splitting the skin crosswise across the middle of the back. When one hunter is doing the skinning, it's best to cut through the base of the tail from bottom to top, leaving the skin intact on the top side. Split the hide up the inside of each hind leg, then place a foot on top of the tail and skin, and pull up on the squirrel's other end. When done properly, the skin will peel off the squirrel from top to bottom, but you may have to practice this method a few times to get it right.
Squirrel cooking methods are dictated, at least in part, by the age of the squirrel. Young squirrels, which are much smaller in size, tend to be more tender, lending themselves well to preparation by frying, grilling or broiling. Older squirrels tend to be tough, and should be cooked by moist, slow-cooking methods such as stewing. I like to parboil larger squirrels four to five hours in a slow-cooker with enough chicken broth to cover. This tenderizes the tougher ones so they can be used in almost any recipe.
Squirrel and Dumplings
3 squirrels, cut in serving pieces
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dumplings (recipe below)
Place squirrels in a large pot. Add chicken broth, then add enough water to barely cover the pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until meat is tender. Add dumplings. Cover; boil gently for 8 to 10 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup milk
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and parsley flakes. Cut in shortening. Add milk to make a stiff dough. Shape mixture into a ball, and roll to a thickness of 1/8-inch on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 1-inch strips, and drop into boiling squirrel stock.
2 to 4 squirrels, ready for cooking
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Season the squirrel pieces with a mixture of the salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne; dredge in flour. Add 1 inch of cooking oil to a skillet; heat to 350 degrees. Cook the squirrel in hot oil for 5 minutes; turn, cover and continue cooking until golden-brown.
2 squirrels, cut in serving pieces
Salt, black pepper, cayenne, to taste
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup uncooked rice, washed
1-1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
Hot sauce to taste
Season squirrel with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Sauté in oil until brown; remove from skillet. Sauté onions, celery, garlic, bell pepper and parsley in oil until onions are clear. Place squirrel back into skillet. Cook slowly, covered, about 30 minutes or until squirrel is tender. Remove bones from squirrel, leaving squirrel meat in skillet. Add rice and water; stir thoroughly. Add salt and hot sauce. Cook slowly about 30 minutes or until rice is cooked. Serves 2 to 4.
2 cups cooked, diced squirrel
2 cups chopped boiled potatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup minced onion
Salt & pepper, to taste
Paprika, to taste
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
Mix squirrel, potatoes, broth and onion. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Cook in butter or margarine heated in a skillet. Cook 30 minutes over low heat, stirring often, until browned on the bottom. Serves 2 to 4.
Charcoal-Broiled Squirrel With Gingered Sherry Marinade
1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
3 small squirrels, cut in serving pieces
Mix all ingredients except squirrels and pour over squirrel pieces placed in a zip-seal bag. Seal; refrigerate up to 24 hours. Remove squirrel from bag, reserving marinade. Grill to desired doneness, brushing occasionally with marinade. Heat remaining marinade to boiling and serve with grilled meat. Serves 3.
Winning on the road in the postseason is a daunting task, but LeBron James' teams have made a habit of it the past five seasons, writes Brian Windhorst.
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving skipped the morning shootaround Friday before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals to get further evaluation on his ailing left knee.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said star guard Kobe Bryant has told the GM that the upcoming season will be Bryant's last with the Lakers.
Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA's request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension.
Former NFL player and convicted killer Aaron Hernandez is running out of money after hiring a platoon of lawyers for all his criminal cases, his attorney said.
Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith was suspended for eight games by Major League Baseball for having a foreign substance on his arm.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, signed a two-year contract Friday with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
North Carolina announced Friday it has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA regarding the re-opening of its academic fraud investigation.
Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton debate which players the top four teams in the 2015 NBA draft should take. Should Minnesota take Karl-Anthony Towns No. 1 overall?
Dwight Howard said it was a hard decision to play Thursday night, but the Rockets starting center did so with a Grade 1 sprain of the ligament in his left knee.
Undersized blueliner Dan Boyle is playing big-time hockey at age 38 and looking to lift the Stanley Cup once more before he exits the stage.
Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to a charge that he tried to silence a witness in a double murder case by shooting the man in the face.
Brewers relief pitcher Will Smith was ejected for having rosin and sunscreen on his right forearm Thursday night in the seventh inning of a 10-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
From the favorites to the field fillers, John Oreovicz sorts out the Indianapolis 500 starting grid by the drivers' chances of winning.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry are unanimous selections to the All-NBA first team, which also includes James Harden, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol.
Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has been suspended for the first game of the regular season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, the league announced Thursday.
Documents show that Patricia Driscoll, in effect, used the Armed Forces Foundation as a bank to lend money for or pay various personal expenses, including bills for a private company she owns.
How will the always competitive SEC shake out this fall? We break down every team in the league, looking at how to beat them and how they beat you.
Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll has been diagnosed with a sprained left knee, the team confirmed Thursday. X-rays were negative.
Tom Thibodeau's rigid coaching style won games for the Bulls but might cost him his job.
A year removed from an ugly skirmish between Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball, commissioner Rob Manfred commended the New York Yankees slugger on his comeback Thursday.
Jim Bowden lays out the 20 players most likely to be dealt by July 31, including a trade likeliness rating, interested teams and best fit for each guy.
Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith is under investigation in Texas over a criminal allegation the local sheriff described Thursday as "sexual in nature."