Anyone who has ever tried to French-trim a rabbit will attest to it being one of the most fiddly gastronomic jobs there is. Though while fiddly, it pales in comparison to the task of getting usable meat from a considerably lesser-known source - the squirrel. But, that's just what Native chef Ivan Tisdall-Downs does.
Inventive butchery - Tisdall-Downs has determined a much easier way to get the meat from the bone, as the squirrel is about a quarter of the size of the average rabbit - making traditional French trimming an optimistic proposition at best.
First, the offal is removed - to be used in game parfait. The carcass is then braised along with root vegetables and other aromatics. When tender, it's allowed to cool before the meat can be picked, with the back legs providing the most meat. The liquor, once strained, goes on to be used as stock in ragu.
That ragu forms the basis either for regular pasta - tossed with the wide past ribbons which hail from Tuscany known as pappardelle - or lasagne. Though this lasagne is made with a difference - it's an "open lasagne", substituting the more traditional pasta with sheets of celeriac, peeled on a mandolin before being blanched in boiling water.
A lesser-known meat - Squirrel is a meat that many diners may raise a questioning eyebrow at, but in reality, it has been a staple of many diets for a long time. Grey squirrel is a highly invasive species, with population numbers consistently rising - this makes it a perfect choice as a sustainable meat option.
Squirrel has been a cornerstone of the diet of many residents of the Southern United States for centuries. The reason for this is the squirrel has always been a plentiful and readily available meat source, particularly in times where budgets may not have been able to stretch to more traditionally reared meat such as lamb, pork, and beef.
Though it traditionally hasn't graced many dinner plates, squirrel is growing in popularity as an ingredient by enterprising chefs. With all eyes on sustainability and responsible meat-rearing, it seems odd to neglect a delicious and readily available source of protein.
Squirrels are free from any drugs or hormones often found in farmed meat, enjoy a varied diet, and are as "free range" as it's possible for meat to get. Add to that the fact there's precious little fat, and it's no wonder they're becoming more popular.
The next time you book you're favorite dining table
at Native will you be up for a squirrel lasagne?
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