Sunday, October 6, 2013

Ecureuil In Confit

Fall is here and so is hunting for certain wildlife and game.  I have personally been hunting only once, and when the hunting party told me that it was a 'quiet' affair, let's just say I decided I was in the wrong arena lol, Anywho, My brother in law Jackie went squirrel hunting last week and knowing my passion for amassing experience in as many aspects of cooking as possible, offered me the spoils of his trip. Ecureuil is the French word for squirrel.   I had not tried squirrel since I was a girl, and it was always accompanied by gravy and/or biscuits. I wanted to step outside of the Southern American box and go for something a little more elegant, possibly even upscale.  With a bit of thought I decided these guys could definitely benefit from the Confit method.
Confit is a French term for cooking something completely submerged in oil, at a very low temperature for an extended period of time.  The traditional oil medium is goose or duck fat,depending on what part of France you are from, some use olive oil.   It was one of the first means of preservation before refrigeration. Confit items, when stored in it's oil, in an airtight container and darkness could potentially last for months.  Alas, thanks to modern technology, we won't push the boundaries of our existence without warrant.
The above recipe was extremely well received by the family, with promise of more hunting in the very near future.  I myself was very pleased and could not remember if squirrel meat ever tasted this magnificent in the past.  This recipe requires a bit of commitment, but the results will speak volumes.
These squirrels were soaked in a salted water solution in the fridge at least 24 hours prior to the marination process.  This gets rid of all the wild and gamey taste.
3 ecureuils, about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. each, well cleaned
1/4 c. red wine, (I used a 2008 Shiraz)
1/4 c. Sherry cooking wine
4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp. freshly ground allspice, (I used a Mortar and Pestle)
2 tbsp. bacon or other pork fat
1 bay leaf
Olive oil, enough to completely cover protein
Combine ingredients in a bowl.  Place ecureuils in a large resealable bag and pour in marinade and toss to coat.  Press out excess air and marinate in the fridge for about 12 hours or overnight.
After marination, cut each into 4 pieces, lengthwise, then crosswise and brush off excess marinade. SPST.
Preheat oven to 230*F.  (I used my smoker and a thermometer with probe to monitor oil temperature.)
Sear over medium high heat on both sides in pork fat, in small batches, about 3 minute per side. Add bay leaf to pan during searing process.
Transfer to large, heavy bottomed vessel or Dutch/French oven until all has been seared, including bay leaf.
Cover protein completely with olive oil and cook until very tender, about 4-5 hours.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towels before plating and serving.  Serves 6.
The above recipe is served with Garlic, Chive and Turmeric Tinted Mashed Potatoes and Sweet and Spicy Glazed Carrots.

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