Zoo animals for dinner - Why not?
Recent turkey and ham recalls casting a shadow over Thanksgiving plans? Not to fear, armed with a handy how-to guide for preparing everything from black bear to yak meat, your family will be in for a special treat this holiday season.
Just as a recent listeria contamination scare resulting in a massive recall of turkey and ham products leaves North Americans rethinking their Thanksgiving table centerpieces, Chef Dave Arnold blogs about some more, er, exotic alternatives.
In a Nov. 8 blog entry written for Popular Science magazine's Web site, Arnold, who is the director of culinary technology at the International Culinary Center's French Culinary Institute, provides tips for sourcing, prepping and enjoying all sorts of unconventional meat.
According to Arnold, those who prefer tougher meat should enjoy wild game even more than standard meat and poultry, which he says are generally butchered young to ensure tenderness, and lack the flavor of their full-grown counterparts.
Arnold's tastes are nothing new - during the Middle Ages, bear meat consumption was symbolic, and bear paws are still considered a delicacy in Cantonese cuisine. Beaver meat has been eaten by indigenous North American populations for generations.
Upscale Chicago eatery Moto served a road kill raccoon dish back in 2008. (see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i3F4MleHaE), and this past June an Arizona restaurant owner caused a public uproar when he put lion burgers on his menu.
Exotic meats are generally avoided due to concerns over bacterial contamination and animal cruelty. However, in light of recent fears of listeriosis sparked by common meats found in neighborhood supermarkets, people may be more willing to step out of their comfort zones this Thanksgiving.
If so, Dave Arnold's tips will be very useful.
Dave Arnold's Low-Temperature Game Cooking Notes
In all cases sear the meat first and put into Zip-loc bags with butter. Cook in an immersion circulator for the prescribed times, then sear again for a minute or two per side on high heat.
Yak: cook at 56°C for 24 hours. Rich and gamey, with notes of duck.
Lion: 57°C for 24 hours. Tastes like pork but richer.
Black bear: 57°C for 3 hours. Tastes a little bloody and metallic. Younger bears are reportedly better.
Beaver tail: 60°C for 48 hours. Woodsy, delicious.
Duck, and birds that cook like duck (teal, widgeon): 57-58°C for 45 minutes to an hour for the breast. Braise the legs.
Squab: 56°C for 45 minutes for the breast. Braise the leg.
Raccoon: I recommend cooking raccoon in a traditional braise.
Where to buy black bear, caribou, camel and other exotic meats: http://www.czimers.com/2.html
For the entire blog entry: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-11/some-people-prefer-more-exotic-meats
For more information on Listeria monocytogene contamination in Canada and the United States: http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Sandwiches+contaminated+with+listeria+recalled+Atlantic+Canada/3841983/story.html, http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20022777-10391704.html
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