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Cuisine

I love the smell of muskrat in the morning

4/20/12 | By Paul Suplee

“The horror. The horror.”

The famous last words from Apocalypse Now repeated themselves in my head for two days; lifeless and soon-to-be headless bodies looking at me with great disdain, ironically with their eyes having already been removed making the entire episode even more reminiscent of a bad Tim Burton movie.

The rabbit was fine. I’ve worked with that plenty of times. Breaking down the walleye, brining the filets and smoking them was old hat.

Breaking down the saddle of antelope was great and as I was working with a talented young apprentice, it was a pleasure to be given the opportunity to work with such a variety of proteins.

No, it was those muskrats, those gnarly toothed, furry paw-still attached creatures that haunted me last weekend as we prepared a game dinner for some guests at the country club.

Those damn muskrats. I will apologize as I know that I will offend some local readers, but while I am happy to have worked with them, I will be just as happy to never have to do it again.

Last year’s challenge was Raccoon Stew and I took care of that, so I was given the honors of the Muskrat Stew this year.

The idea was to build a muskrat ramp stew and then top it with a gorgeous bacon-wrapped rabbit loin. Ramps are a wild leek and work beautifully in mildly hearty dishes, and as such are perfect with rabbit, veal, bison, emu and some of the leaner beefs.

Many jokes were had as we worked with the skinned rodents and we wondered why anyone would eat them. I was sure to call one of my student’s father to ask his advice since he is an avid muskrat aficionado. I followed his instructions (being sure to thoroughly remove the musk glands) and then made a beautiful stew.

I did my best and the guests loved it; but then again, they loved the raccoon stew last year too so I have to go with it. Muskrat just is not my thing. They tasted very rich and gamey and they did not suit me one bit.

I considered sending a picture to the paper of the crime scene that a bowl of muskrats is but opted to not submit one for the article. I feared that it might not only dissuade some from trying muskrat but might also make a new vegetarian or two with its posting.

As it is a professional kitchen, a term used loosely in this case, the opportunity could not be passed up to scare and shock a few unsuspecting people. As such, and since I am a man who believes in giving credit where credit is due, the muskrats served a great purpose for us.

As for eating muskrats? I’ll let you decide, but they were not my cup of tea. One of the new cooks enjoyed them and again the guests loved the stew, so it worked. I was feeding them and not myself; the culinarian’s creed.

Now I just have to figure out what I’m going to do with the road kill for next year’s dinner.

The horror. The horror.

Rabbit Loin Roulade

serves 3

1 ea. Rabbit, broken down

1/3 c. Rabbit forcemeat (recipe follows)

3 strips bacon, halved to double number of strips

meat glue (it’s worth finding)

seasoning as necessary

Lay out the rabbit loin with saddle so that you can fill the middle with the forcemeat

Lay a hotdog shape of forcemeat in the middle and carefully roll the mess up.  Be careful not to squeeze or your roulade will turn into a raw sausage pastry bag

lay out the strips of bacon and if you have meat glue mix with water until it resembles paper mache paste.  Brush the bacon down and lay the rabbit roll on top

Roll the bacon around the rabbit and place on a piece of plastic wrap, pressing as your slowly wrap to help you form a nice, round shape

Roll the ends and then roll the whole thing on the table until it compacts and you will have a perfect shape

Tie the ends with more plastic and then poach lightly until halfway cooked

Place in an oven unwrapped and roast until brown on the outside with an internal temperature of 140F

Let the rabbit slack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve on a stew of your choice.  My opinion? stay away from muskrat, but that’s your call.

Forcemeat

for every 12 oz. of meat from legs

¼ c. stock

¼ c. cream

2 ea. egg whites

seasoning of your choice

In the old days, this was a painstaking process, but with the aid of the modern food processor, who cares?

Throw the meat in the processor and mix, scraping the sides regularly, until it is smooth

Add the stock, cream and egg whites and add some seasoning

THIS STEP IS CRITICAL!  You do not want the forcemeat to get warm (I’ll save you the technical gobbledygook) so add an ice cube or two and mix.  This will help it to stay together

When the forcemeat resembles a chewed bubble gum, it’s ready to go.  Take a small amount and cook it to check the seasoning.  Once it has passed muster, keep it chilled until ready to use

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