A delicious way to cook up the hunt.
Squirrel is about the most ethical meat you can serve on a dinner plate—it’s free-range, plentiful and low in fat. It also tends to be local and sustainable. What does squirrel meat really taste like? It has a deeper, stronger flavor more like duck or lamb, although some people claim it tastes like some heritage breeds of pork. According to chef and author Georgia Pelligrini, in general, squirrel meat is “nutty and sweet, buttery and tender.” Keep in mind that while different species of squirrels have slightly different flavor profiles, how any individual squirrel tastes is going to depend most heavily on what they’ve been eating.
When you think about it, squirrels usually subsist on a diet heavy on nuts—acorns, pecans, etc.—a diet strikingly similar to that of prized Iberian pigs, the source of the best, most flavorful and tender Spanish hams. Learn more at Taste test: squirrel meat.
Squirrel meat is also quite healthy, offering up more protein per serving than beef or chicken. There are enough vegetables in this pot pie to make it a one-dish meal. For hearty eaters, consider serving it with rice or crusty bread to help sop up with the delicious sauce. A crispy green salad alongside wouldn’t be out of place either.
What to do if you have a squirrel but don’t know how to cut it up for cooking? We rely on the expert advice from Hank Shaw, author of Hunt, Gather, Cook and Duck, Duck, Goose, as well as Buck, Buck, Moose, who makes it look easy in his tutorial How to Cut Up a Squirrel for Cooking.
- 1 1/2 pounds squirrel meat
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons oil plus more as needed
- 1 large onion
- 3 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 cups Guinness beer
- 1 can 16-ounce chopped tomatoes
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 handful about 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie
- 1 large egg optional
- Heat an oven to 400°F. Cut the squirrel meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Put them in a medium bowl, sprinkle with the flour, and toss to coat evenly and thoroughly.
- In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it's almost smoking (you want to use a pot with sides to keep splattering to a minimum). Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides until lightly browned and allow it to drain on a paper towel. Add more oil to the pan as you need it for optimal browning.
- While the meat browns, peel and finely chop the onion, peel and finely chop the carrot, and finely chop the celery.
- When the meat is all browned and out of the pot, add the chopped vegetables to the pot, sprinkle with the salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. While they cook, peel and mince the garlic. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and just starting to turn golden, about 2 minutes more. Return the meat to the pan, add the broth, Guinness, and tomatoes to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits stuck to it. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Meanwhile, chop the rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Once the mixture is boiling, add the herbs and the pepper. Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens, about 1 hour.
- Pour the squirrel mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and allow to cool completely. Gently place the pie shell over the mixture, pinching the edges to seal. Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg and water mixture over the pie crust to enhance browning. Cut three 1/2-inch vents at the center of the crust. Transfer the pie into the oven and bake until the crust is baked through and browned and the filling is bubbling at the edges and at the vents, 30 to 40 minutes.