I once read an article that stated: the rise in roadkill requires new solutions. Throughout that article, I was told that vehicle-wildlife collisions kill millions of animals and harm thousands of people each year and that a group of scientist are currently working on solutions. I will admit my first thoughts weren’t necessarily the normal ones, no mine was more like, “hot damn that’s a lot of wasted food.” Such food also gets a bad rap these days. Heck living in the south I personally am guilty of pulling over to see what’s for dinner. Driving home I once witnessed a young buck run right in front of my car and into the other lane of oncoming traffic. He was then hit by a truck, I quickly pulled over and rushed to see where the buck went…. I mean if the driver was okay. Unfortunately, my search and recovery efforts failed me and my dinner table, that day, but the driver was okay, the car, not so much. It may have been at that moment I realized I have thoroughly embraced the southern culture. Or it might have been the day a neighbour down the way saw me out jogging who then pulled over, got out of his truck, opened up his truck bed to reveal a giant raccoon he had hit an hour ago. Then he proceeded to say “hey sweet thing, you cook, what recipes you got for coon?” My non-Southern upbringing may have been offended but like the good southern I am now, I quickly jumped in and said: “well heck I have no idea but let’s see!” He then followed it up with “Atta girl!” It was then I realized a tasty solution for all those scientists who are working so diligently on coming up with solutions to this problem; eat them! I mean come on, Louisiana celebrates such goodies buy having a Roadkill Cook-Off, for real!
Items you have accidentally hunted with your car aren’t just for beer-bellied bearded dudes anymore. They are so much more than their stigma of only being tasty for people who are probably missing teeth. No, roadkill delights are equally as amazing to you Mercedes driving, super lifted Ram truck, decked out Jeepers who don’t actually dare get their Jeep dirty types too! Admit it, roadkill has happened to the best of us. So, next time you ever get angry at a groundhog and “accidentally” run one over in said vehicle because his scaredy-cat Uncle saw his damn shadow and gave us six more weeks of winter. Just think how tasty he could be on your table. Would you braise him? Or are you much more sophisticated and prefer to do a long sous vide? Whichever version you go with its sure as hell going to make one of those winter nights a lot warmer for you! So now that we have established yourself as a “classy” road killer, it’s my duty as a chef to give you some pointers!
First, you must always check for fragments of bones, those are never fun to bite into. So be sure to feel for any sharp or hard pieces prior to cooking. Next, just like fish, check the eyes. A fresh animal will have bright clear eyes. Lastly, do a sniff test! Yes, you heard right! If you smell nothing your good to go. If it smells rotten then it most likely is and my best advice would be to bury it.
Now that we have some pointers to get you cooking, here are a couple of my favourite recipes for a common roadkill item, those “Pesky Wabbits”. Despite the beloved cartoon connotation rabbit is probably a meat that you Mercedes Benz driving people might frown upon, but you shouldn’t judge too quickly! That Pesky Wabbit meat is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Rabbit also has an excellent balance of fatty acids so much so that rabbit is actually richer in Omega 3 than chicken or pork! So, it goes extremely well with your Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, Rabbit only diet that everyone is on these days!
BRAISED SPICED RABBIT
1 # Rabbit Meat, Saddle, arms and thighs
1 Cup Onions, chopped
½ Cup Carrots, chopped
½ Cup Celery, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 cup Red Wine
1 14oz Can San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed
1 TBS Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp. Cardamom, ground
Pinch of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper, to tasted
In a large sauté pan add about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat the pan on medium to high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook until the onions are fairly translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Then deglaze the pan with red wine. Using a wooden spoon scrape the pan while the wine cooks down. Once almost all of the wine has cooked down add the can of San Marzano tomatoes. Then add all of the spices; cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well. Then gently add the rabbit pieces. Cook uncovered on medium-low heat for about 2 hours. The rabbit meat will be fall off the bone tender. So, handle with care when removing from the pan.
Serve with a side of mashed potatoes for a truly marvellous meal! On a side note, this is actually the recipe for a very popular rabbit dish I served in my restaurant!