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Small game recipes for the fall

August 28, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Gatehouse News Service

While small-game hunter numbers have declined, the rewards of spending time chasing rabbits, squirrels and even mourning doves have remained the same.

Big-game feasts of wild turkey, elk and venison remain the centerpiece of wild-game cooking, but creative ways to cook and present small game lend themselves to an array of culinary creations.

After awing guests with small-game appetizers and meals, hunters may find themselves enjoying these exciting hunts – and the rewards – more than big game.

Landon Simmons, a hunter and competitive cook in Memphis, Tenn., combines his passion for small-game hunting and cooking on a regular basis.

“I feel like many hunters have forgotten about squirrel and rabbit and other small game,” he said. “I surprise people with new recipes, and most come back looking for more.”

Squirrel season in most states extends several months, and the long hunting season offers ample opportunities to get in the woods.

Preparing the meat begins immediately after the hunt.

Simmons prefers to field-dress his squirrels, including skinning the game and packing it in ice before leaving the field.

Once in the kitchen, the meat lends itself to any number of bite-size dishes.

Simmons has two dishes that have been popular as appetizers and a meal.

He explains that on several occasions he has removed the meat from the bone, not to disguise the meat, but to merely change the appearance for those who may be queasy about eating squirrel.

Recipes like these may rekindle a passion for small-game hunting. Simmons and his wife impress guests who would normally never experience high-end table fare like squirrel and rabbit.

“It’s great to see people who have never eaten squirrel or rabbit take two or three skewers or tacos,” Simmons says. “Every fall I catch myself skipping deer hunts to chase small game, and after making several dishes for other deer hunters, they begin doing the same thing.”

Teriyaki Squirrel
• 12 squirrel leg quarters (3 squirrels)
• 6 wooden skewers (previously soaked in water)
• 2 tsp shallot, minced
• 2 tsp garlic, minced
• 2 tbs scallions, for garnish
• 1 tbs lime juice

For the sauce/marinade:
• 3/4 cup soy sauce
• 3/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup mirin rice wine vinegar
• 1 tbs fresh grated ginger
• Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all sauce ingredients, bring to a slight boil and allow to cool.

Use half to marinate leg quarters for at least two hours.

To the remaining half add shallots, garlic and lime juice.

Set aside for dipping.

Grill squirrel on medium high, 4-5 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Allow squirrel to rest 5 minutes, garnish with scallions, and serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: Four to six servings

Squirrelly Tacos
• 12 squirrel leg quarters (3 squirrels)
• 11⁄2 cups of Italian dressing
• 1⁄2 stick of melted butter
• 2 tbs honey
• 1 tbs taco seasoning (can make your own or use a packet)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Braise squirrel in Italian dressing, butter, honey and taco seasoning until tender.

Allow to cool.

Shred and set aside.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, sliced radishes, pico de gallo, grilled onions, fresh chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime.

Yield: Four to six servings

Rabbit sliders

Rabbit Sliders
• 1 large yellow onion
•1 tsp of sugar
• Pinch of salt and pepper
• 2 tbsp butter
• 11⁄2 lbs ground rabbit (2 rabbits)
• 1⁄2 lb fresh ground pork sausage
• 11⁄2 tsp salt
• 11⁄2 tsp black pepper
• 1 large clove of minced garlic
• 1⁄4 tsp red pepper
• 1 tsp onion powder
• Juice of half a lemon
• 1 tbsp Worcestershire
• 1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley • 1 24-pack of Hawaiian rolls • 24 slices of Swiss cheese

Honey Mustard Dressing
• 5 tbs honey
• 3 tbs Dijon mustard
• Juice of half a lemon
• Pinch of salt
• 1 tbs fresh chopped chives

Mix together honey mustard dressing ingredients and set aside.

Slice one large yellow onion.

Sauté in butter, sugar, salt and pepper until caramelized.

Set aside. Gently mix together rabbit, sausage and next eight ingredients.

Form into small patties and sauté in cast iron skillet over medium high heat until cooked through.

Spread honey mustard dressing on top and bottom of Hawaiian roll.

Add rabbit patty, then caramelized onions and top with Swiss cheese.

Serve with your choice of side.

Tip: Goes well with sweet potato fries and a cilantro lime coleslaw.

Yield: 24 sliders



Related stories

Cleaning, preparing and eating squirrel

Squirrel season is underway in Illinois and writer Ed Smith offers a helpful pictorial on how to clean, cook and eat a bushytail.

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